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Skara Brae: a ‘Stone Age’ Village in Orkney

  • V. Gordon Childe

Perhaps the greatest handicap in trying to visualize life in prehistoric Britain is the exiguity of domestic remains, especially on the architectural side. The dwellings themselves were normally of perishable materials so that only their outlines survive, and of their furniture not even that can be said. An exceptional conjunction of circumstances has, however, preserved in Orkney a whole village belonging to a belated Stone Age, with its huts and their fixtures reasonably complete. The huts were built of stone; they had been packed in refuse and were eventually buried by sand, and so the walls still stand to a height of from 8 to 9 feet. The timber shortage prevailing on the wind-swept isle necessitated the translation into stone, and therewith the immortalization of articles such as beds, usually manufactured of ephemeral wood. The village is indeed a highly specialized adaptation to a particular environment so that deductions from it can only be generalized with reservations. Again, though the villagers used only stone and bone tools, they probably lived at a time when bronze, and perhaps even iron, were current in less isolated localities. Still we get here so vivid a picture of Stone Age life in our islands that a summary of the results of four seasons' work may be of interest even to the general reader.

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1 Proc. Soc. Ant. Scot., XXXVIII, 175.

2 Mem. SOCA. nt. du Nord,1919, p.290.

3 de Baye, ,L’Arch.preh., p.37; be, Belgique ancienne, pp. 148,212,2 30.

4 Mem. SOCA. Ant. du Nord.,1926–7, p.96.

5 Archaeologia, LXII, p. 599. Most of the tools seem to have been merely hafts.

6 Proc. Royal SOCE. din., L, pp. 70 ff, where the contrasts between Skara Brae and the normal broch culture are also set forth in detail as well as certain agreements with the ‘later broch’ culture.

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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