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3,500-year-old Neolithic art in Scotland

Archaeologists uncover magnificent example of 3,500-year-old Neolithic art in Scotland

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Archaeologists have uncovered the finest ever piece of Neolithic art on a stone, which was found at the base of vast temple complex built in 3,500 BC on Orkney Island, Scotland.

The carved stone was found during excavations at the Neolithic temple complex on the Ness of Brodgar in Orkney.  Archaeologists have been working on the site for a decade but this is by far the best example of Neolithic art that has been found in Britain to date.

The large triangular block of stone is decorated on both sides and has been described as better than previous examples of Neolithic artwork found at Skara Brae and Maeshowe in the 1970s and 1980s. The basis of the design is a series of interconnecting triangles which are filled with cross-hatchings and other designs. An initial wash has also revealed a finely incised chevron design and small cup marks.

An online diary kept by archaeologists at the site said today: ‘[This is] perhaps the finest piece of art we have recovered from the site, and one of the finest from the UK ever, amazing and awe inspiring.

The Neolithic site on which the stone was found covers an area of 2.5 hectares and is believed to have been occupied from as early as 3,500 BC.  Neolithic man arrived on Orkney about 6,000 years ago and began cultivating the land, building farmsteads and rapidly establishing a vibrant culture.

They built the vast temple complex, which has provided evidence of housing, decorated stone slabs, a massive stone wall with foundations, and a large building described as a Neolithic cathedral.  Once protected by two giant walls, each more than 330 feet long and 13 feet high, the complex contained more than a dozen large temples, with one measuring almost 270 square feet.  They were linked to outhouses and kitchens by carefully constructed stone pavements. The bones of sacrificed cattle, elegantly made pottery and pieces of painted ceramics lie scattered there.

The exact purpose of the complex remains a mystery for now.

By April Holloway

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