Skara Brae

Settlement (neolithic)

Site Name Skara Brae

Classification Settlement (neolithic)

Alternative Name(s) Skerrabrae; Skea Brae; Bay Of Skaill; Skaill House; Skail Bay

Canmore ID 1663

Site Number HY21NW 12

NGR HY 23125 18745

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2015
View on large map

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Sandwick
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Treasured Places - HLF funded

The Neolithic settlement at Skara Brae consists of drystone structures linked by paved passageways. Most are built within a mound of midden material that has been packed up against the outer walls, resulting in a semi-subterranean arrangement. Each house is furnished in a similar fashion using stone slabs with repeated elements including central hearths, box-beds and shelved 'dressers'. An exception is House 8, a freestanding building, which may have been used as a workshop.

Remains of at least ten structures have been recorded, but these were not contemporary. The village may have been in use for around five hundred years, the well preserved houses that are currently visible representing the latest phase of rebuilding and occupation.

Information from RCAHMS (SC) 22 June 2007

Ritchie, A 1995

Ritchie, A and Ritchie, G 1998

An image of this site has been nominated as one of Scotland's favourite archive images. For more information about the project visit http://www.treasuredplaces.org.uk

Archaeology Notes

HY21NW 12.00 23125 18745

(HY 2313 1874) Skerrabrae (NR)

OS 6" map, Orkney, 2nd ed., (1903).

See also HY21NW 30.00, HY21NW 30.01 and HY21NW 36.

HY21NW 12.01 HY 231 187 Stone: Rune-Inscribed

HY21NW 12.02 HY 230 187 Animal Remains; Stone Knives; Hearth

HY21NW 12.03 HY 230 187 Burial; Midden

For comparable settlements at Barnhouse (Mainland), Rinyo (Rousay) and Pool (Sanday), see HY31SW 61-2, HY43SW 20 and HY63NW 17 respectively.

Skara Brae, a Neolithic/Early Bronze Age settlement dated from its close similarity to the settlement at Rinyo (HY43SW 20), is a cluster of seven huts, connected by covered alleys, all contained within a heap of midden material. There are three phases of occupation, all of similar nature. The buildings are of drystone construction. They had been covered with blown sand, in which were found two stone cists containing pagan, probably Norse, inhumations. (For full details see authorities).

V G Childe 1950; RCAHMS 1946.

The settlement at Skara Brae is as described, planned and illustrated by the above authorities.

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (NKB) 25 May 1967

HY 231 187. Excavations were undertaken on behalf of the Department of the Environment, 25m W of the present guardianship area where a storm had revealed the remains of a wall. The walling forms part of a structure or structures of a type not previously documented at the site. Two phases are represented and the line of the walling of each phase diverges as they go inland, becoming two separate walls. Both have walling running at right angles to the main walls. Preservation is extermely partial ranging from substantial walling several courses high to a single stone continuing the line. No significant midden deposits were associated with either phase of walling.

D V Clarke 1977

Radiocarbon Dates:

Birm 436 End of phase II village Mixed animal bone 2090bc +-110

2655BC +-125

Birm 434 End pf phase II village Mixed animal bone 2070bc +-110

2625BC +-125

Birm 435 End of phase II village Mixed animal bone 1920bc +-100

2415BC +-115

Birm 433 End of phase II village Mixed animal bone 1880bc +-100

2355BC +-125

Birm 793 Base of waterlogged layer in midden deposits at periphery of domestic area Mixed animal bone 2110bc +-130

2685BC +-145

Birm 477 Base of waterlogged layer in midden deposits at periphery of domestic area Mixed animal bone 2000bc +-100

2520BC +-115

Birm 478 Top of waterlogged layer in midden deposits at periphery of domestic area Mixed animal bone 2190bc +-120

2830BC +-135

Birm 792 Top of waterlogged layer in midden deposits at periphery of domestic area Mixed animal bone 1980bc +-110

2495BC +-125

Birm 437 Top of waterlogged layer in midden deposits at periphery of domestic area Mixed animal bone 1830bc +-110

2275BC +-125

Birm 795 Occupation deposits on old land surface Mixed animal bone

2520bc +-120 3270BC +-135

Birm 480 Occupation deposits on old land surface Mixed animal bone

2370bc +-100 3055BC +-135Birm 794

Occupation deposits on old land surface Mixed animal bone

2330bc +-100 3005BC +-115

Birm 637 Beginning of Phase I village Mixed animal bone

2480bc +-100 3215BC +-115

Birm 638 Beginning of phase I village Mixed animal bone

2480bc +-120 3215BC +-135

Birm 639 Beginning of phase I village Mixed animal bone

2450bc +-100 3175BC +-115

Birm 636 Beginning of phase I village Mixed animal bone

2400bc +-130 3095BC +-145

Birm 790 End of phase I village Mixed animal bone

2420bc +-150 3125BC +-160

Birm 789 End of phase I village Mixed animal bone

2360bc +-120 3045BC +-135

Birm 791 End of phase I village Mixed animal bone

2340bc +-100 3020BC +-115

Birm 788 Beginning of phase II village Mixed animal bone

2340bc +-120 3020BC +-135

Birm 786 Beginning of phase II village Mixed animal bone

2330bc +-120 3005BC +-135

Birm 787 Beginning of phase II village Mixed animal bone

2200bc +-100 2850BC +-115

J L Davidson and A S Henshall 1989.

HY 231 187 A watching brief was conducted at the Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae (NMRS HY21NW 12) between February and March 2000. The work to be monitored was the removal of fence posts and their concrete settings around the S and E of the site, and the excavation of a trench and holes for a new perimeter fence and rabbit netting. Naturally accumulated sand deposits were most common, with occasional buried ground horizons. However, close to the S side of House 7, midden deposits were observed. A bone point, two cobble tools and six Skaill knives were retrieved.

Further archaeological monitoring of a substantial deturfing exercise to create a new footpath was carried out in April 2000. The turf was cut partly by hand and partly by machine. In both of the excavated trenches, the depth of excavation did not penetrate beneath archaeologically insensitive topsoil material. Consequently, no finds were recorded or retained.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

P Sharman and D Stewart 2000.

Scheduled as 'Skara Brae, settlement, mounds and other remains [comprising] the Neolithic village at Skara Brae, nearby remains of structures and activity areas of similar date, a large mound containing a succession of prehistoric and early medieval structures, and an area in which related remains are likely to survive, including ancient soils and field systems'.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 2 February 2004.

'The Orcadian' newspaper makes a number of references to Skara Brae. In 1866 it described the donations from 1863, from the site, given to the scottish Antiquarian Museum, and discussed the excavations being carried out at Skara Brae. In 1882 2 stone balls from the site were mentioned.

Standing building recording HY 2313 1874 A continuing programme of survey between February and November 2005 included stone-by-stone recording of the passageways and other areas not completed by an earlier photogrammetric survey, and the identification and positioning of inscribed stones (on-site).

Archive to be deposited in NMRS.

Sponsor: HS.

D Sproat 2005

Watching brief HY 2316 1875 A watching brief was undertaken in September 2005 during minor excavations near the NE entrance gate to the Neolithic village to allow access to a telephone cable. Only ground previously disturbed and redeposited during the original installation of the cable was disturbed. No finds, deposits or structures of archaeological significance were encountered in this small excavation.

Archive to be deposited in NMRS.

Sponsor: HS.

A Hollinrake 2005

HY 2311 1873 A watching brief was undertaken in March and April 2006 during the lifting of turf and paving slabs as part of a programme of works to alter visitor access paths in and around Skara Brae Neolithic Village. These works did not penetrate beyond turf and topsoil in any of the excavated areas, and as a result, no deposits, finds or structures of archaeological significance were encountered.

Archive deposited with Orkney SMR held at Orkney College, Kirkwall, Orkney. Archive to be deposited in NMRS.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

A Hollinrake 2006.

Events

References

MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions