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10 December 2019
Nine Bronze Age carved stones unearthed in Orkney

A team from ORCA Archaeology, carrying out exploratory excavations at the proposed site of an electrical substation development in Orkney (Scotland), has unearthed nine, half-metre tall stone-carved objects. Some of the finds look remarkably like carved stone representations of the human form, while others could have potentially been used to tie mooring ropes onto, to help hold roofs in place. It's thought the stones could possibly date to around the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, roughly 4000 years ago.
     The ORCA team was working at a site just outside Finstown and the excavators dug through sixty centimetres of midden deposits after unearthing the remains of an ancient structure, made up of burial cists and hearths. The stones were scattered around a hearth within the structure, and three of the roughly carved figures appeared to be important enough to the people who used the building to be incorporated within one of the hearths and in the foundations a standing stone.
     Archaeologists will now work to officially date the stones as others have previously been found on Iron Age sites in Orkney. Identifying the purpose of the stones, and if they are indeed figurines, will also require further investigations, with experts looking for clues including abrasion, wear and any other marks on the anthropomorphic objects.
     Professor Colin Richards from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute said: "It is very rare to find representations of people in prehistoric Orkney and when found, they are usually individual or in very small groups. If they are figurines, to find nine within one structure is very exciting."
     Elsewhere at the site, the team also saw signs of people working the land some 4000 years ago. In one excavation trench, long marks were found cut into the clay subsoil, made by ard point ploughs. The survival of these marks is relatively rare and could be some of the earliest evidence of farming in Orkney.
     Pete Higgins, ORCA Archaeology Project Manager, said: "This collaborative project gives us the opportunity to examine an important prehistoric site that would otherwise not have been excavated. The exploratory trenches are now recorded and covered over, while the significant artefacts are now cleaned and stored for future study. Discussions will take place on the next steps for the development."

Edited from Orkney.com (6 December 2019)

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