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The Neolithic settlement Skara Brae, Scotland, dubbed the “Scottish Pompeii” due to its excellent preservation. This site was occupied approximately 3180 BCE–2500 BCE.

8 stone dwellings are what remain of Skara Brae today, each of these are linked together by low, covered passages. Considering the age of these structures, their preservation is astonishing, the walls still stand, and the alleyways are each roofed with their original slab of stone.

The preserved interior fittings of Skara Brae offer a rare insight and glimpse into the daily of Neolithic Orkney. Each house is similar in their basic design, each have a large square room, beds on either side, a shelved dresser on the wall opposite the doorway, and a central fireplace.

It was declared part of a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, and was described as proclaiming the triumphs of the human spirit in early ages and isolated places.”

Photos courtesy & taken by Michel Guilly.

Newgrange (Irish: Sí an Bhrú) is a prehistoric monument in County Meath, Ireland, about one kilometre north of the River Boyne. It was built about 3200 BC, during the Neolithic period, which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. Newgrange is a large circular mound with a stone passageway and chambers inside. The mound has a retaining wall at the front and is ringed by ‘kerbstones’ engraved with artwork. There is no agreement about what the site was used for, but it has been speculated that it had religious significance – it is aligned with the rising sun and its light floods the chamber on the winter solstice. It is the most famous monument within the Neolithic Brú na Bóinne complex, alongside the similar passage tomb mounds of Knowth and Dowth, and as such is a part of the Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage Site. Newgrange also shares many similarities with other Neolithic constructions in Western Europe, such as Maeshowe in Orkney, Scotland and the Bryn Celli Ddu in Wales.

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The Tomnaverie Stone Circle, near Tarland, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

It took us about an hour to drive to this remarkable site from Aberdeen, and while still freezing, we fortunately got a beautiful, clear day. The site was completely deserted of other tourists, free to visit, and had unrestricted access to the monument -allowing you to walk around, and observe the stone circle up close.

The Tomnaverie Stone Circle dates from the Neolithic period, about 2500 BC. Although stone circles are relatively common in the British Isles, Recumbent stone circles, such as Tomnaverie, are unique to north-east Scotland. There are approximately 100 examples of this type of stone circle known, and they are characterised by having a large stone on its side, with two upright stones flanking it (see photo 3).

It is not entirely known why such recumbent stone circles were built. Tomnaverie was built on the edge of cultivated land, and away from the settlements of the living. It has been suggested that their purpose was to frame sacred landscape features (for example, Tomnaverie provides stunning views of Lochnagar), or might have been associated with the dead. Another line of thought is that they were closely related to agriculture, and used for astronomical observation: enabling the local farmers to track the changing seasons. For example, at Tomnaverie, the Moon would have been framed by the large 3-stone formation at midsummer. 

Much later, at around 1000 BC, the site was reused for cremation burials. In more recent history, the monument came close to complete destruction: nearly being destroyed by quarrying prior to the 1920s. Thankfully, intervention took place, and from this point the circle was taken into state care, and preserved for us to still view today. It stands as a testament to the Neolithic community who lived on this landscape, and provides us with a physical connection to these people we know so little about. It is a strange thing to be standing on the hill of the monument and looking out to the surrounding mountainous landscape, sharing the view of the prehistoric creators of Tomnaverie, only over 4000 years apart.

Photos taken by myself. AncientArt in Europe 2014/15.

Neolithic Figurine Art 

From left to right: 1. The Goddess Ishtar, Circa 3000 BC.; 2. Ftelia on Mykonos, Neolithic figurine; 3. Early Cycladic 2700-2300 BC.; 4. Goddess Figure Pakistan circa 2nd century BC.; 5. Venus Impudique (“immodest Venus”) c. 14,000 BC, from Laugerie-Basse, Vezerey in Dordogne); 6. Figurine, 800s BC Iran; 7. Cycladic figure, 3200-2000 BC., Greece.

The Goddess is the most potent and persistent feature in the archaeological records of the ancient world, a symbol of the unity of life in nature and the personification of all that was sacred and mysterious on earth.

via > sculpturepods.com

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The Neolithic art of Newgrange, located in County Meath, Ireland.

Older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and Stonehenge in England, Newgrange is over 5,000 years old (dating to approximately 3200 BC). The art of the entrance stone and Kerbstone 52 are regarded by many to be of the finest achievements of European Neolithic art.

The first photograph was taken in one of the three chambers off the central chamber. Shown next is the famous entrance stone, which measures 3.2m long, with a close up of its decoration shown in the following image. The fourth photo is from the walls of a passage, and the fifth photo, Kerbstone 52, followed by a close-up of the latter. Kerbstone 52 is 3.4m long, and diametrically opposite the entrance stone.

Photos taken by Cleta Ernst (1 & 4),  Douglas Pfeiffer Cardoso (2), Bob Usher (3), Daniela (5), and Dan Merino 

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Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement

A 4,500 year old time capsule in Scotland

Often described as one of the most remarkable sites to have been excavated in the British Isles, Jarlshof appears to have been inhabited continuously for about 4,000 years. The earliest remains are those of Neolithic houses, and the most recent a 16th century manor house. For anyone visiting the Shetlands, this is a site not to miss.

Jarlshof provides an insight into the way of life of the inhabitants at particularly interesting periods – the late Bronze Age, Iron Age, Pictish era, Norse era and the Middle Ages. 

It includes oval-shaped Bronze Age houses, Iron Age broch and wheelhouses, Viking long houses, medieval farmstead and 16th century laird’s house.

Oldest Masks Go on Display

The first known masks are Halloween-like stone portraits of the dead, according to an upcoming exhibition at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The exhibit, called Face to Face: The Oldest Masks in the World, reveals for the first time 12 Neolithic masks featuring wide toothy smiles and large eyes.

According to the curators, who set up the display after 10 years of investigative work, the eerie stone portraits were carved out of limestone some 9,000 years ago by Stone Age people who were among the first to abandon nomadic life.

Analysis into the type of stone revealed the masks came from the Judean Hills and nearby Judean desert in Israel. Read more.

Newgrange, Ireland ~ This passage tomb is one of the oldest man-made constructions on earth, predating Egypt’s ancient pyramids by some 700 years and fabled Stonehenge by 1,000.

During the Winter Solstice, the sun’s rays penetrate through a unique roof box, crawl slowly up the tight 62-foot long pathway, and light up the central burial chamber. This makes Newgrange the oldest solar observatory in the world.

Built around 3200 BCE, the heart-shaped hill occupies more than an acre and is surrounded by 97 massive curbstones, some richly decorated with geometric carvings. The tomb is 36 feet high with a diameter of 280 feet. Construction, done without benefit of the wheel or metal tools, took more than 20 years. Workers dragged 200,000 tons of loose stones to the mound, digging them from the earth by hand and hauling them 30 miles to the hilltop.

The inner chamber has three recesses  which form a cross. The intricate corbeled ceiling reaches a height of 20 feet, although the narrow entry passage is much lower. Overlapping stones form a conical dome, topped by a single capstone. This ceiling has been intact more than 5,000 years and still keeps the inner chambers dry.

Newgrange is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Orkney dig dispels caveman image of ancestors

THE image of our Neolithic ancestors as simple souls carving out a primitive existence has been dispelled.

A groundbreaking excavation of a 5,000-year-old temple complex in Orkney has uncovered evidence to suggest that prehistoric people were a great deal more sophisticated than previously thought.

The archaeological dig at the Ness of Brodgar, which is still in its early stages, has already thrown up discoveries that archaeologists say will force us to re-evaluate our understanding of how our ancestors lived.

The picture that has emerged so far points to a complex and capable society that displayed impeccable workmanship and created an integrated landscape. Read more.