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21 February 2004
Geophysics survey at Ring of Brodgar reveals massive settlement

Evidence of an extensive settlement to the north of the Ring of Brodgar stone circle in Orkney, Scotland, has been revealed by geophysics scans of the ground. Part of an ongoing project to investigate sub-surface archaeology at the World Heritage Site, the scans show a massive Bronze Age settlement.
     In the past it was assumed that the area was purely a ritual one, as only the Barnhouse settlement discovered in 1984 and a settlement to the south of the circle pointed to habitation. Nick Card of Orkney Archaeological Trust said: "the new geophysics survey results are incredible and show an area of extensive settlement to the north of the Ring of Brodgar.
     “We now know we have a huge archaeological complex covering several hectares – a massive area rich in sub-soil anomalies running from the Dyke o’ Sean up to base of the hill at Wasbister. We’re assuming it probably continues under the main road and continues toward the Harray Loch.”
     The scans show clearly a pair of prehistoric round-houses believed to be similar in style to the Bronze Age "figure-of-eight" houses excavated in Shetland and the Western Isles. Rectangular anomalies on the scans may represent later medieval or Viking activity. Also showing up is a definite non-domestic area around the Ring of Brodgar apparently bounded to the north by the Dyke o' Sean.
     The geophysics work wasn't just confined to the Ring of Brodgar area, and across the Harray Loch in a field to the north of Maeshowe, a circular anomaly first seen on aerial photographs was investigated. A lack of magnetic responses on the scans suggests a non-domestic site. Nick Card said: “From the evidence so far, we’re thinking that the enclosure was part of the ritual landscape around Maeshowe and as such perhaps involved somehow in the rituals and ceremonies centred on the cairn.”
     So far 60 hectares have been scanned by GSB Prospection with the sponsorship from Historic Scotland, Orkney Islands Council, Orkney Archaeological Trust and Orkney College. Another 15 hectares will be scanned in March this year, and a further 15 in the autumn.

Source: Orkneyjar (18 February 2004)

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