In September an article appeared on the website of the British daily newspaper ‘The Independent’ about recent discoveries on Orkney, a group of islands to the north of Scotland. The islands contain many monuments dating from the New Stone Age (the Neolithic) such as houses, stone circles and burial monuments. A number of these are very famous, such as the settlement of Skara Brae, the hunebed of Maeshowe, the Ring of Brodgar and the stone circle known as the Stones of Stennes. Some of these monuments are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Research has been carried out here for many years and it now appears that some of these monuments were used for celebrations.
The research was carried out by Professor Alex Bayliss of Historic England. He and his team examined more than 600 radiocarbon dates from the period 3200-2500 BC. It appears that around 2850 BC no one lived permanently in this area but people only met here at certain times of the year. Furthermore, these people were a great ‘melting-pot’ of groups from many different areas. Suddenly that ceased to be the case, although the reason is not known. But it seems that at the time that these people all came together in the Orkneys, some sites were being used as central burial grounds and also as places to hold celebrations. Some of these festivals took place during the shortest night and the longest night of the year (the “summer solstice” and the “winter solstice”) and were also used as an opportunity to find a partner.
The research into the Ring of Brodgar also showed that each stone comes from a different part of the Orkney Islands. Apparently each of the diverse groups of people brought its own stone and placed it in the monument. Remarkably, Professor Bayliss’ research also found evidence that people travelled to the Orkneys from as far away as Belgium.
So my question now is – were the hunebeds also used for similar ‘parties’? Were they more than just burial places?
The full report can be found at
Translation Alun Harvey