Orkney is an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland that have been inhabited for at least 8,500 years. Originally occupied by Mesolithic and Neolithic tribes and then by the Picts, Orkney was invaded and forcibly annexed by Norway in 875 and settled by the Norse.
1 – Skara Brae
Skara Brae is a neolithic settlement in the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of mainland Orkney.
The site dates from 3180BC-2500 BC and consists of several clustered houses, often described as the “Scottish Pompeii” because of its excellent preservation. Skara Brae gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status as one of four sites making up “The Heart of Neolithic Orkney.”
The site was first discovered in the winter of 1850 when a severe storm hit Scotland and exposed the settlement. William Watt of Skaill, the local laird, began an amateur excavation of the site, but after four houses were uncovered, the work was abandoned in 1868.
Around 2500 BC the climate of the region changed and became much colder and wetter, which may have been the contributing reason to the disbandment by its inhabitants, but this is one of several theories being discussed.
2 – Ring of Brodgar
The Ring of Brodgar is a neolithic henge monument and stone circle about 6 miles north-east of Stromness on the mainland, island in Orkney, Scotland.
It is generally thought to have been erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC but attempts at scientific dating the monument’s age remains uncertain.
The stone circle is 104 metres (341 ft) in diameter, and the third largest in the British Isles. The ring originally comprised up to 60 stones, of which only 27 remained standing at the end of the 20th century.
Midhowe Broch is an iron age broch (drystone hollow-walled structure) located on Eynhallow Sound, a seaway lying between Mainland Orkney and the island of Rousay.
The Broch is part of an ancient settlement which has since been lost to the sea through coastal erosion.
The broch tower has an internal diameter of 9 metres within a wall 4.5 metres thick, which still stands to a height of over 4 metres. The broch interior contains stone partitions and a spring-fed water tank in the floor and a hearth with sockets which may have held a roasting spit.
4 – Standing Stones of Stenness
The Standing Stones of Stenness is a neolithic henge monument located on the mainland of Orkney.
Although the site today lacks the encircling ditch and bank, excavations have shown that this used to be a henge monument, possibly the oldest in the British Isles.
The stones are thin slabs, approximately 300 mm (12 in) thick with sharply angled tops. Four, up to about 5 m (16 ft) high, were originally elements of a stone circle of up to 12 stones, laid out in an ellipse about 32 m (105 ft) diameter on a levelled platform of 44 m (144 ft) diameter surrounded by a ditch.
5 – Broch of Gurness
The Broch of Gurness is an iron age broch village located on he mainland of Orkney, overlooking Eynhallow Sound north west of Kirkwall.
Settlement of the site began between 500 and 200 BC but at some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. Further settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times.
The settlement encircles a stone tower, which would have originally reached a height of around 10 metres. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor.
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