Skara Brae

HomePage | Recent changes | View source | Discuss this page | Page history | Log in |

Printable version | Disclaimers | Privacy policy

Skara Brae is a large stone-built Neolithic settlement, located in the Bay of Skiall on the west coast of mainland Orkney. The level of preservation is such that it has gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Until 1850, Skara Brae lay under the grassland behind the bay. Rough seas and high winds in that year revealed several houses, while in 1924 the remainder was uncovered as a result of similar weather.

Skara Brae's inhabitants were the Grooved Ware People, who are thought to have built the Maes Howe type chambered cairns. It should be noted that there were several phases of occupation, and that all we can see today is the last phase.

The houses were built in midden -- rotting rubbish -- to give greater stability; passages were dug out to connect the houses, which have 3 metre high walls.

On average, the houses measure 40 square metres in size, and contain a number of stone-built pieces of 'furniture' including 'cupboards', 'dressers', 'seats' and 'box beds'. Most houses have a large hearth which would have been used for cooking. Other anciliary rooms may have included storage rooms and -- possibly -- toilets.

A comparable -- if smaller -- site exists at Rinyo on Rousay island. Unusually, no Maes Howe type tombs have been found on Rousay and although there are a large number of Orkney-Cromarty chambered cairns these were built by Unstan Ware people.