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12 August 2010
Neolithic stonework with a pattern found on Orkney

Archaeologists revealed that they have discovered the first evidence in the UK of stonework painted with a pattern, suggesting Neolithic people enjoyed decorating. It comes a week after the researchers, working at the Brodgar peninsula on Orkney (Scotland), found plain painted stones thought to be around 5,000 years old at the spot. The site, described as a possible Neolithic temple precinct, is between the Stones of tenness and the Ring of Brodgar.
     The latest discovery is a stone with a zigzag chevron pattern in red pigment. It is thought the painted and decorated stones may have been used to enhance important buildings and may have been found in entranceways or areas of the building which had particular significance.
     Nick Card, of the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (Orca), said: "There has been evidence at some other Neolithic sites where paint pots have been found with remains of pigment but they were considered to be for personal adornment rather than being used on a wider scale for the decoration of buildings. This is a first for the UK, if not for northern Europe.
     One of the stones found last week were painted purple-red, while the other was red and yellow. The paint will now be analysed but it is thought it may have been made from hermatite mixed with animal fat and perhaps milk or egg.
     Mr Card said: "We've always suspected colours was a part of their world.
"This is adding to the dimension of the Neolithic that many archaeologists would have thought but there was no real evidence for."

Sources: The Scotsman (3 August 2010), The Press and Journal (4 August 2010)

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