The Bay of
Skaill on the Orkney Mainland had eroded back from the sea for thousands
of years, but one night in 1850 the sandy dunes of the bay were to be
pounded by a huge storm. In its aftermath, it was to reveal a Neolithic
settlement protruding from the sandy dunes which, had disguised its
existence. 1927 was to see the start of planned excavations on the site of
‘Skara Brae’ to reveal the village and its secretes.
excavation of the subterranean site was to reveal that the inhabitants of
"Skara Brae" had hurriedly left, for what reason we will probably never
The huts where
linked by interconnecting passageways which had specific entrances into the
complex from the outside, and the walls were made of sandstone slabs, with
cobbled walling forming the roofs. It is believed that the huts, which were
all of similar design, had thatched roofs due to the discovery of whalebones
in one of the dwellings.
The interior of
the huts showed a dresser, made of flag stone shelves and stone supports,
which may have been used as a larder or similar storage area. A rectangular
hearth in the centre of the room was used for cooking and heating. ‘Box
beds’ made of upright slabs on three sides, with the walls of the hut making
the fourth accounted for the sleeping arrangements. There were recesses
above the beds, which may have been used for the more personal objects of
the occupants. Another common feature in the huts was a ‘Limpet Box’ built
with slabs and lined with clay, these boxes were used for water storage.
It is obvious
that ‘Skara Braes’ occupants were skilled craftsmen working with bone and
stone, as much of their pottery, tools and weapons were richly decorated.
They were farmers who bred sheep, cows and grew cereal crops and hunted Red
Deer and fished in a seemingly, well-organised community environment.
‘Skara Brae’ is
under constant threat from the sea as the dunes around the Bay of Skail are
© John A. Duncan of
Sketraw, FSA Scot.