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Archaeo News 

19 September 2009
Orkney dig gives clear picture of life in Neolithic Britain

Archaeologists working in Orkney (Scotland) have pieced together the most complete picture to date of life in Neolithic Britain. Excavation of a settlement on the island of Westray points to a people that farmed and fished together and probably had their own village hall. Archaeologists believe that the Links of Noltland settlement could become as significant as Skara Brae, the Unesco World Heritage Site on Orkney's mainland.
     Graeme Wilson, who is leading the excavation of the site, said that he hoped to learn how 'ordinary, run-of-the-mill people' lived 5,000 years ago. It is thought that up to six extended families lived in Links of Noltland in three to four buildings and that they farmed crops such as barley, and kept livestock, including cattle and sheep. "The most unusual thing about the site is that everything is in context," he said. "We have the field systems, the houses, and everything in between. Everything seems to have been sealed and preserved by the sand dunes. Now they are being stripped away, leaving a fragment of a landscape."
     Archaeologists have found surprises in the Neolithic midden that covered the building: tools made of animal bone, including spatulas, beads, and enormous pins, similar to dress-making pins, which probably held together their clothes. "What is remarkable is that things like bone do not usually survive," Mr Wilson said. Analysis of the field soils on the site indicates that the community managed the land carefully while other excavation work has established possible butchery sites and unearthed deer bones, which suggests that community was partial to venison.
     The evidence the acrchaeologists have already gathered shows parallels with Skara Brae, where the houses were built into a pile of midden, to provide stability and insulation. However, there is better preservation at the Links of Noltland site, and a wider time-frame, from the Neolithic period to the Bronze Age, can be observed. Peter Yeoman, from Historic Scotland, which manages the site, said: "The Links of Notland contains such a rich variety of well-preserved evidence for how people lived in Orkney over a long period of time. "What is particularly valuable is that we have a combination of buildings, field systems, waste products and artefacts from a long period of time and over a wide area. Taken together these elements can give a very full picture of how people lived, their diet, agriculture, farming and living arrangements."

Source: Times Online (19 September 2009)

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