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19 September 2009
Orcadian carving may represent human eyes and eyebrows

A remote Neolithic burial mound on an Orkney island (Scotland) may contain carvings of human eyes and eyebrows, it has been revealed. The stone is inside the Holm of Papa Westray tomb. Historic Scotland believes it is linked to the find of a carving believed to be Scotland's earliest human face, dating back thousands of years. That small Neolithic sandstone human figurine recently unearthed at Links of Noltland was believed to be up to 5,000 years old.
     Richard Strachan, senior archaeologist with the Historic Scotland cultural resources team, said: "Initial comparisons do show a similarity in use of this eyebrow motif and may point to the possibility that the markings in the cairn are meant to show human eyebrows and eyes, as the style is very similar to the figurine. Alternatively, we may be seeing the re-use of a motif familiar to the carver and applied to different contexts with different meaning. This is highly intriguing and raises yet more questions about Neolithic people's attitudes to artistic representations of human beings." He added: "Images of people are very rare indeed, which some people believe suggests that it was considered taboo. But the discovery of the figurine shows there were some exceptions, and the lintel in the tomb may suggest that there were situations where particular features could be shown."
     The Holm of Papa Westray tomb's remote location can only be reached by private boat hire. Experts described the previous find of the figurine as one of 'astonishing rarity'.

Source: BBC News (17 September 2009)

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