Landscapes Revealed – second volume of UHI Archaeology Institute research series out now

A substantial Neolithic settlement at the north-western end of the Ness of Brodgar is one of hundreds of new archaeological sites outlined in a new book from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute.

Landscapes Revealed: Remote Sensing Across the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, the second volume in the institute’s research series, documents a nine-year project that surveyed a 285-hectare area between Skara Brae and Maeshowe.

The project, which ran from 2002 until 2011, revealed a wealth of new sites, as well as helped chart the changing character of the landscape and shed new light on the known monuments and their place in the historic and more recent past.

The Neolithic site mentioned above lies to the north-west of, and is on a par with, the Ness of Brodgar excavation site. Based on the surveys and the finds collected in the field, it seems we may have something of the same magnitude as the Ness and incorporating similarly large structures. But of particular interest is the fact that this settlement is merely one facet of a landscape incredibly rich in archaeology — containing evidence of life from the Neolithic all the way through to long-gone 19th century farmsteads.

Gradiometer data interpretation of an area north of Buckan Farm, Sandwick, at the north-western end of the Ness of Brodgar. (ORCA)

Staying on the Ness, north-west of the Ring of Brodgar are Bronze Age houses that are providing important insights into this enigmatic period of Orcadian prehistory. The structures lay close to – but a respectable distance from – the stone circle, where the householders placed the remains of their dead in a manner similar to that encountered at Stonehenge.

Bronze Age dwellings were also discovered inland from Skara Brae, showing that people did not abandon the area but adapted their way of life in the face of climate change, increasing storminess and encroaching sand.

Moving into the Iron Age, the surveys revealed in startling detail the brochs that loomed over the ruins of Skara Brae and the Stones of Stenness. With the latter, the broch-dwellers continued to act out rituals at what was already an ancient stone circle. Clearly the Neolithic monuments continued to inspire.

To find out more, pick up a copy of the book.

Landscapes Revealed: Remote Sensing Across the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, by Amanda Brend, Nick Card, Jane Downes, Mark Edmonds and James Moore.  Published by Oxbow Books, the hardback is available now, priced £35.