One of the attractions of the Ness of Brodgar excavation site is the location. Situated on an isthmus between the Loch of Stenness and the Loch of Harray, with the Ring of Brodgar to the north-west and the Stones of Stenness to the south-east, there are few archaeological sites in the UK that are more beautiful.
It is tempting to get drawn into an examination of the structures and the intricacies of the buildings and wonder at the craftsmanship at the Ness of Brodgar, but it is equally important to view the site within a landscape. This, in many respects, is a central feature of our teaching and work at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute – that the archaeology is seen as part of a past, present and future landscape.
Standing at the Ness, if you raise your eyes from the dig itself, get accustomed to the light, the big sky and the lack of trees, you will notice that the whole area is one huge amphitheatre.
To the north, east and west, undulating hills rise up to form a bowl. But to the south the large distant hills possess a different character. The valley sides, that seem to mirror the angle of the Stones of Stenness, are actually on the Island of Hoy – the island that is unlike anywhere else in Orkney. These hills of Hoy draw your eye. Especially on wild weather days in winter when clouds erupt off the summit.
There is little doubt that visitors today think this is a special place – you just have to be there for a few hours to see that. We can also summise that Neolithic people thought the same. Perhaps it is because the area is surrounded by water which is surrounded by land and then by sea – a large model of the wider world?
We will never know, but it is evident that visitors today still think the place is special.and if you need written evidence then just take a few minutes to look at the map completed a few months ago by volunteers surveying the surrounding World Heritage Site.
Download the map from here