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A woman and her partner walking on Sanday Island in the Orkneys came across the skeleton of a child who died about 4,000 years ago.

Storms wash away sand revealing 4,000-year-old child skeleton in Orkney

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The 4,000-year-old remains of a child, aged around ten years, exposed on a beach by a storm in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, are prompting archaeologists to ponder how the child died. A hiker, Carrie Brown, and her partner saw ribs sticking out of the sand February 3, 2015, and alerted local archaeologists. Archaeologists who specialize in bones will examine the skeleton in more detail.

“The reason we were there was due to a stone we saw before Christmas time. We thought it might have some runic writing on it,” Brown told DailyMail.com . “We noticed what looked like ribs sticking out of the sand. Three or four ribs were exposed. I thought it was human, or very much hoped it was. We told the local archaeologist who quickly had a look and said it was.”

Archaeologists carefully worked on the site for several days and extracted the skeleton for carbon dating tests.

Previously the oldest bones found in the Orkneys dated to the Viking era of about 875 to 950 A.D. A farmer found those bones in a sandbank in 1985. Several years after the initial excavation of those remains, archaeologists found a Viking longboat along with a quiver with eight arrows, a set of 22 game pieces, an iron sword and a bone comb nearby.

Ring of Brodgar, a Neolithic henge and stone circle, on the main island of Orkney

Ring of Brodgar, a Neolithic henge and stone circle, on the main island of Orkney (Chmee2 photo/ Wikimedia Commons )

But scientists think people were in the Orkneys at least as far back as the 6,000 B.C. Farmers may have arrived by traveling across the Pentland Firth from western Scotland to settle the islands, which have fertile soil, the DailyMail.com says.

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An article in The Guardian says : “The people of the Neolithic – the new Stone Age – were the first farmers in Britain, and they arrived on Orkney about 6,000 years ago. They cultivated the land, built farmsteads and rapidly established a vibrant culture, erecting giant stone circles, chambered communal tombs – and a giant complex of buildings at the Ness of Brodgar. The religious beliefs that underpinned these vast works is unknown, however, as is the purpose of the Brodgar temples.”

Excavations at the Ness of Brodgar on mainland Orkney

Excavations at the Ness of Brodgar on mainland Orkney (genevieveromier photo/ Flickr)

The temple complex of the Ness of Brodgar covers 6 acres and is complex and sophisticated, The Guardian article said. "We have discovered a Neolithic temple complex that is without parallel in Western Europe. Yet for decades we thought it was just a hill made of glacial moraine," Nick Card of the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, who discovered the complex, told The Guardian in 2012.

The temple complex had been protected by two walls more than 110 yards (100 meters) long and 4.5 yards (4 meters) high. It had a dozen large temples linked by stone pavements to kitchens and outhouses.

“The bones of sacrificed cattle, elegantly made pottery and pieces of painted ceramics lie scattered round the site. The exact purpose of the complex is a mystery, though it is clearly ancient. Some parts were constructed more than 5,000 years ago,” The Guardian wrote.

Today about 20,000 people inhabit 20 of the Orkneys’ 79 islands.

Featured image: A woman and her partner walking on Sanday Island in the Orkneys came across the skeleton of a child who died about 4,000 years ago. Credit: Sanday Ranger

By Mark Miller

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