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28 September 2015
Remarkable decorated stone found in Scotland

At the Neolithic site called the Ness of Brodgar, on the Orkney mainland off the northernmost tip of Scotland, within the area of Structure Eight (and possibly within Structure Seventeen which underlies it), an archaeologist recently found herself uncovering one of the most remarkable decorated stones yet seen there.
     The edge of a slab about 5 centimetres thick displays deeply incised bands of carved parallel lines, infilled with decorations including lattice and saltire-like patterns. There are also very fine incised lines, that may have been "guidelines" which were then incised over more deeply - though some have not been used, perhaps giving indications of an earlier plan for the stone.
     The new stone also occurs early in the history of the site.
     This latest find is strikingly similar to the incised stone removed from the northeast corner of Structure Eight in 1925, now in the National Museum in Edinburgh. It is also similar, although far superior, to another stone from Structure Eight, found in 2009, which can currently be seen in the Stromness Museum on Orkney.
     One of the many intriguing elements in this discovery is that, at least in one period of its life, the stone may have been hidden within the wall of the structure. This is a recurring theme, and raises the prospect that the walls of the Ness structures may hide many more astonishing examples of decorated stone.
     Site director Nick Card says this latest example is certainly one of the top five decorated stones discovered thus far, out of more than 700.
     In the backfill of the robber trench to the southwest of Structure Ten, more dressed sandstone blocks are appearing. Some may be in their original position and, again, may have been hidden from view. Others may be associated with a Phase Two re-arrangement of the building. It now seems that some of the stones were being extracted to be used elsewhere, but that some were then dumped back in. This is puzzling, and raises the question of what the stones were being extracted for. So many have been removed that researchers are wondering where is this magnificent structure built from Ness stone?

Edited from The Ness of Brodgar Excavations (17 August 2015)

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