Ring of Brodgar, a Neolithic stone circle and henge monument, with the Loch of Harray in the background. Detail: Aerial view of the newly-uncovered structure.

5,000-Year-Old Mystery Structure Discovered Near Stone Age Temple in Scotland

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A mysterious Stone Age building has been unearthed at the Ness of Brodgar in Orkney, Scotland. Researchers discovered it while excavating a Neolithic midden (rubbish dump.) It is located near one of Scotland's most famous rings of standing stones – the Ring of Brodgar.

According to The Herald Scotland , the site contains a Stone Age temple, and the discovery of the structure helped to re-date the location.

While digging at the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney, the researchers found the layout of a series of slabs which are unlike anything previously found on the island. The structure is 4 meters (13 ft.) long and it was unearthed amongst the remains of Neolithic rubbish.

Aerial view of the structure.

Aerial view of the structure. ( James Robertson/Orkneyskycam.co.uk )

The walls of the construction are 10 meters (33 ft.) wide and the researchers say that the structure is about 5,000 years old. They speculate that the building was covered over by the huge midden, but it could possibly be a chambered tomb. The researchers also found human remains – a human arm bone.

The team of researchers is led by Nick Card, an archaeologist at the University of the Highlands and Islands, who believes that the bone was deliberately placed and could possibly be the remains of a respected original founder of the large complex.

The slabs, also called orthostats, have rounded edges and appear to have been weathered or worked in the same way as standing stones found at Stenness just 0.3 miles (0.48 km) away.

Sunset at the Standing Stones of Stenness, Orkney.

Sunset at the Standing Stones of Stenness, Orkney. ( Fantoman400/CC BY SA 3.0 )

As the site director, Nick Card, said :

"The sheer size and scale of the stones unearthed are unprecedented on this site. The way the stones are built into the construction is also unique to the Ness. This all suggests that they may have been re-used and taken from elsewhere. Perhaps they may be part of a stone circle that pre-dates the main Ness site. It is all a bit of mystery and we won't know more until we do more work."

Since 2002, the researchers have discovered many impressive artifacts, including artwork, pottery, animal bones, stone tools and parts of buildings at the site. These findings make this location one of the most interesting Neolithic sites in Scotland. It was inhabited between 3,200 and 2,200 BC - the same period as another famous site located just a few miles away on Orkney – Skara Brae.

Old settlement Skara Brae in 2012, Orkney Island, Scotland.

Old settlement Skara Brae in 2012, Orkney Island, Scotland. ( Chmee2/CC BY SA 3.0 )

The site in the Ness of Brodgar is located on a peninsula of land just a few hundred meters wide that divides two saltwater lochs.

It seems that the two or three constructions (i.e. the Ring of Brodgar, Standing Stones of Stenness, and the recently uncovered structure) were a ceremonial corridor. However, the exact purpose of the Stone Age temple, nicknamed ''The Neolithic Cathedral'', is unknown. The director of excavations suggests that it could have been a whole complex that created a ceremonial center.

2014 image of work at the Neolithic settlement at Brodgar, Scotland.

2014 image of work at the Neolithic settlement at Brodgar, Scotland. ( AlastairG/CC BY SA 2.0 )

On August 19, 2016, Natalia Klimczak reported on  another discovery related to Orkney on Ancient Origins. She wrote that a team of researchers from the University of Adelaide revealed an explanation to one of the greatest mysteries of the British standing stone monuments. They say that the great stone circles were constructed specifically in line with the movements of the Sun and Moon 5,000 years ago.

An article in the  Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports  says the researchers used innovative 2D and 3D technology to construct quantitative tests of the alignment patterns of the standing stones. The researchers explained in their article that nobody had ever statistically determined that a single stone circle was constructed with astronomical phenomena in mind.

Earlier, researchers supposed that it may be so, but there was no concrete evidence which could confirm this belief before the present study. The researchers examined some of the oldest great stone circles built in Scotland, for example Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis, and Stenness, Isle of Orkney ─ both predating Stonehenge's standing stones by about 500 years. 

The Neolithic stones of Callanish.

The Neolithic stones of Callanish. ( Chris Combe/CC BY 2.0 )


It is so nice to these folks digging deeper. I wonder how much trouble and cost it is to get permission to open a dig like this that happens to be so close to an existing site like this Henge? I wonder if this is on Private or on Public lands? I know how much time and trouble it is here in the States but was curious about how much trouble and cost for permission it is there.

Great find...thank you!

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