Landscape of the Neolithic
Neolithic Orkney sits in the midst of a magnificent and extensive landscape scattered with archaeological remains from Western Europe’s Neolithic as well as the later period of Orcadian history. The prehistoric people of the Orkney Islands, located in the far north of Scotland, built extraordinary stone monuments for domestic and ritual purposes, all of which are extremely well-preserved. Occupied roughly between 3100-2500 BCE, the Neolithic Orkney grouping of monuments and structures includes six sites: Skara Brae, Ring of Brodgar, Maeshowe, Stones of Stennes, Watch Stone, and Barnhouse Stone.
The Neolithic period in the British Isles is largely characterized by monumental architecture and a strong development of ritual. The grouping of monuments and structures at Neolithic Orkney constitutes a major prehistoric cultural landscape which provides a glance into life 5,000 years ago in this remote archipelago.
Ritual and Domesticity
The stone monuments of Neolithic Orkney give us unique insights into the society, occupation, and spiritual belief system of the people who built them. Juxtaposed at the site are domestic features—such as stone walls, passageways, even beds—and ritual sites like the chambered tomb of Maeshowe, the Ring of Brodgar stone circle, and the Stones of Stenness circle and henge.
A pristine example of Neolithic domestic life, the settlement of Skara Brae lies near the dramatic white beach of the Bay of Skaill. Buried over time in sand and uncovered in 1850 by a storm, Skara Brae displays remarkable preservation of stone-built furniture and a diverse range of ritual and domestic artifacts from a now vanished culture.