My Illlustrated Travel Journal with Essays about Roman and Mediaeval History and some Geology


16.8.13
  Neolithic Orkney - The Ring of Brodgar

Orkney is rich in Neolithic sites, and the area between the Ring of Brodgar, the Standing Stones of Stenness, and Maes Howe in particular so. On the landbridge separating Loch Stenness and Loch Harray, the Ness of Brodgar, a Neolithic settlement is being excavated, with cool new finds popping up almost daily. Those guys and gals must love playing in the mud right now. *grin*

Partial view of the Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar is the most visible and iconic of those Neolithic sites. It makes for splendid photo motives, too; I got too many to cover by one post. So I'll give you some general information about the ring here, with another post about the role of the site in Neolithic Orkney to follow.

Part of the ring seen from outside

The interior of the ring was disturbed by peat harvesting and has never been excavated. Therefore the monument was not scientifically dated, though it is generally assumed the Ring of Brodgar was built between 2500 and 2000 BC, which puts it in the later period of Neolithic activities on the site. The Standing Stones of Stenness on the other side of the causeway are much older: 5400-4500 BC).

Another view

The Ring of Brodgar has a diametre of about 104 metres (340 ft). Only 36 stones remain today, but there may have been as many as sixty stones once. Several of them had fallen and were re-erected in the 19th century. They vary in heigth from 7 feet (2 metres) to 15 feet (15ft 3 in - 4.7 metres) and are thus smaller than the Stones of Stenness. But the ring itself is pretty large and comes third in the British Isles, after Avebury and Stanton Drew. The famous Stonehenge site is actually a bit smaller than the Ring of Brodgar.

The two largest stones

The Ring of Brodgar is enclosed by a rock-cut ditch (10 metres wide and 3.4 m deep) that brings the diametre to 130 metres. It is crossed by two causeways; a smaller on in the south-east, and a 3.4 metres wide one in the north-west. Interestingly, there is no outer bank made of the material from the trench like at other rings. Some of the material may instead have gone into the several mounds that surround the Ring of Brodgar.

Seen from the ditch
(That path in the foreground is not one of the causeways)

As mentioned above, some fallen stones in the Ring of Brodgar had been re-erected by the Edwardian archaeologists who first researched the monument, though some stones still can be found where they fell at some point in time. One of the standing stones was hit by lightning in 1980. It split and part of it crashed to the ground.

The fallen stone

The name of the ring was recorded as 'Broager' in 1563, but the local Orcadian pronounciation always added a 'd' in the middle which has become part of the official spelling in 2004.

Next time we'll look at the Neolithic landscape and culture of the place.

 
Comments:
I've never been to Orkney, sadly. How fascinating that these sites are being found! So exciting.
 
Oh, I like these pictures! Gets the writing juices flowing. :)
Are they thinking of doing any excavating?
 
Great shots, Gabriele! The ring looks really impressive. I've always wanted to go to Orkney...
 
Thank you, Kathryn and Kasia.

Constance, I don't think so. The place is not undisturbed and they've found that settlment at Barnhouse which should deliver much better information.
 
It looks marvellous, especially sited so close to the sea. It's easy to imagine that a narrow finger of land between two lochs would be a special sort of place. Do we know if the coastline was the same in the Neolithic as it is now?
 
Carla, Loch Stenness did not exist in Neolithic times; there was a swamp. More about it in my next post.
 
Love these wonderful photos of yours, Gabriele - there's something just so incredibly evocative about standing stones...

Weren't the Orkney Isles shaped by the Storegga Slide tsunami which destroyed the landbridge between Scandinavia ans Scotland in prehistoric times? I believe there is quite a bit of underwater archaeological work going on in the area around the Orkneys, looking for remnants of this landbridge, known as Doggerland.
 
Anerje, I haven't looked into the Doggerland stuff in detail, but that must have happened before the Neolithic culture took hold on the islands. It didn't take much for the sea to breach the narrow finger of land between what now is Loch Harray and Loch Stenness (which was thereby created). That tsunami must have been much worse and gone together with a general rise of the sea level over the following time, since else the land would have reappeared.
 
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The Lost Fort is a travel journal and history blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and other places. It includes essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, as well as some geology, illustrated with photos of old castles and churches, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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Location: Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)


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