skara brae ▴ bay of skaill, orkney, scotland

consisting of eight clustered houses, this neolithic village – europe’s “most complete” – was occupied from roughly 3180 bc to about 2500 bc. it has been called the “scottish pompeii” because of its excellent preservation.


Knap of Howar, Orkney Islands, Scotland

The Knap of Howar on the island of Papa Westray is a Neolithic farmstead which may be the oldest preserved stone house in northern Europe. Radiocarbon dating shows that it was occupied from 3700 BC to 2800 BC, earlier than the similar houses in the settlement at Skara Brae on the Orkney Mainland.The farmstead consists of two adjacent rounded rectangular thick-walled buildings with very low doorways facing the sea. The larger and older structure is linked by a low passageway to the other building, which has been interpreted as a workshop or a second house. Though they now stand close to the shore, they would have originally lain inland. The stone furniture is intact giving a vivid impression of life in the house. Items found in middens (refuse heaps) show that the inhabitants were keeping cattle, sheep and pigs, cultivating barley and wheat and gathering shellfish as well as fishing for species which have to be line caught using boats. Finds of finely-made and decorated Unstan ware pottery link the inhabitants to chambered cairn tombs nearby and to sites far afield including Balbridie and Eilean Domhnuill. The name Howar is believed to be derived from Old Norse word haugr meaning mounds or barrows.


Skara Brae is a stone-built Neolithic settlement, located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Mainland, the largest island in the Orkney archipelago of Scotland. Consisting of eight clustered houses, it was occupied from roughly 3180 BC to about 2500 BC. Europe’s most complete Neolithic village, Skara Brae gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status as one of four sites making up “The Heart of Neolithic Orkney”. Older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids, it has been called the “Scottish Pompeii” because of its excellent preservation.


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.


Orkney, my heart is with you. Seriously, if you ever have a chance to visit this place please take it. The skies are huge, there’s a neolithic dwelling at the bottom of everyone’s garden, and you can check out a stone-age burial chamber ransacked by Vikings who sheltered from a snow storm and amused themselves by graffitiing the walls.

Also, bottom right hand is the Italian Chapel - a wonderful chapel built from an old nissen hut by Italian POWs brought to Orkney to work on causeways to block the passage of U-boats through the islands. A prisoner named Domenico Chiocchetti painted the interior, even staying behind after the end of the war to finish the ornate interior.


Archaeology: A Secret History - BBC Four 

Episode 3 “The Power of the Past”.

The Neolithic site of Skara Brae in Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

Skara Brae is the best preserved Neolithic village in Western Europe. Occupation began about 3180 BC and continued for about 600 years.

All the houses were well built of closely fitting flat stone slabs and linked by covered passageways. The structures of this semi-subterranean village survive in impressive condition as well as the furniture in the houses. Each house comprised a single room with a floor space. The fitted stone furniture within each room comprised a ‘dresser’, where prized objects may have been stored and displayed, two box-beds and a stone hearth centrally placed and used for heating and cooking. Just outside the complex of houses, a workshop stands on its own where chert (a local flint substitute) was made into stone tools.

Artefacts like tools, pottery, gaming dice, richly carved stone objects and jewellery (necklaces, beads, pendants and pins) have been discovered. No weapons have been found and the settlement was not in a readily defended location.

Skara Brae was discovered in 1850 when a violent storm ravaged the Orkney Islands and revealed the Neolithic village buried beneath the sand dunes.In 1999 Skara Brae (along with the other Orkney sites Maeshowe, the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness) were designated as a World Heritage site.

Skara Brae, Orkney Islands, Scotland, UK

Shil Me Fein
Triona ni Dhomhnaill
Shil Me Fein

Fans of the legendary folk groups Skara Brae, The Bothy Band and Relativity should recognize the name of Triona ni Dhomhnaill, whose distinctive and beautiful voice is heard here singing “Shíl mé Féin” on her first solo album, “Triona.” This album was first released on Gael Linn Records in 1975, but we found a copy of the 1984 re-issue on Green Linnet Records from Connecticut.  Triona can also be heard playing the harpsichord on this song.

The song tells the story of a man who moves from Donegal to Antrim and remembers his birthplace and old friends on his deathbed.

Skara Brae, 5000 year old village. That’s older than the pyramids. And everything I saw that day was around the same age - give or take a few lifetimes, of course. It seems from what I saw that the people living here had quite a sophisticated lifestyle - beds, dresser tables, privacy…

The erosion at the Bay of Skiall is threatening the site, though.


Bachwen Burial Chamber, North Wales, 21.1.17. A single chamber which sits atop a promontory facing out to sea.The capstone is marked with numerous examples of cup shaped art. 

Fic: Infodere Ch 1

I started a new story. It was supposed to be a one shot. Its not. I don’t know what will happen. It might wind up in the next Chapter, I might still be writing this when DG finally gets round to finishing Bees. Who knows.

Its another AU. Jamie and Claire are archaeologists who meet on a dig in Mexico. Adventure ensues (eventually!)

As always let me know what you think and my other work can be found here


Claire hacked her way through the vegetation. After 12 months based in the university teaching she’d forgotten just how physically demanding field work could be. She’d travelled as far as she could by truck and then by horse but the site lay another 6 hours by road. The jungle track, although more challenging would have her there in less than three, giving her time to set up her tent before all her equipment arrived with the supply trucks.  She felt  a familiar excitement in the pit of her stomach. She loved her sojourns to the university, sharing her knowledge and practice with the next generation, but field archaeology had always been her first love. She’d started young, only 6 years old, following the death of her parents and a brief and highly unsuccessful stint in a boarding school. Her Uncle Lamb, an esteemed antiquarian and archaeologist of some note, her only living relative, had taken her in and this meant a life of roaming around archaeological digs and universities. She’s never considered another career. She knew she would never find one to match the excitement, the adventure of her calling.

And this dig. Claire licked her lips as she thought of the possibilities. She and her team had been given rare and unusual access to an ancient site, thought to be Zaptoec in origin. Some digs had already been done at Monte Alban, but it was thought that this new site may date back even further and give new insight to the life of this pre-Columbian civilisation. A pre dig unit had been there for about three weeks already, doing surveying work and creating access to the site for their equipment. She had never met the lead archaeologist in this team and knew him only by reputation having read his recent article on Mayan iconography in a journal. He was based out of the University of Edinburgh, a institution with fine School of Archaeological Sciences and was confident the site had been left in good hands.

Finally, hot and sweaty Claire and her guide broke through the tree line and out into the clearing. The ruins of a pyramid dominated her skyline and below it all was activity. Graduate students ran to and fro marking out sectors and recording the topography. Equipment specialists tested equipment and tents were being hastily erected to act as sleeping quarters, a dining hall, medical station and several classification and examination tents, equipped with bright lights. She strode purposefully towards the biggest tent.

“I’m Dr Claire Beauchamp. I’m looking for Dr Fraser.”

A slight looking grad student with a gaunt face and a loping gait, led her into the tent. Following she looked around approvingly. Everything seemed to be set up just so. In fact she would have likely not selected any different configuration.  The student came to a halt at a tarpaulin which separated the main classification area from the specialist examination area. Whilst the majority of digging, general sorting and labelling would be done by less experienced archaeologists and students, the more serious work would be undertaken by the two senior archaeologists, Claire herself, a specialist in mesoamerican artefacts and Dr Fraser a specialist in Ancient iconography and architecture. They also had a funerary archaeology on hand should any human remains be uncovered which was always a possibility when excavating formerly inhabited areas. The student coughed nervously in an attempt to catch the attention of the person on the other side of the tarp. Claire rolled her eyes slightly, wondering how this nervous little man would cope with both the physical and psychological rigours of eight weeks on a remote dig. The student coughed again, slightly louder this time. A voice from the other side of the tarp rang out.

“For crying out loud, Geordie. Just call my name when you need me. Dinna hang around outside hacking away like a victorian consumptive” The tarp was suddenly pushed to the side and out strode a tall broad figure. So large him seemed to fill the space. He came to a halt in front of Claire who had to rock back slightly in order to look at him, so tall was he. She smirked slightly at his Indiana Jones style hat, before holding out her hand to greet him.

“Dr Fraser I presume.” She said with a smile. He reached out and took her hand to shake it and she couldn’t help but think how warm and soft it was.

“And ye’ll be Dr Beauchamp then, aye? Your reputation precedes you. My colleague Dr Gowan was mad wi’ jealousy that I would be working with a archaeologist of such renown.”

“Oh you know old Ned?” She asked laughing. “I worked with him on one of my first professional digs. It was out at Skara Brae in Orkney. The weather was a bit different to here.” She fanned herself slightly with her hat. She had spent many years in various tropical climes in the course of both her own and Uncle Lamb’s work, but the first few days were always and adjustment, especially when leaving the British Winter behind. Much as she loved her work in Durham University she was never sorry to say goodbye in the winter months.

Fraser laughed. “C’mon then. Let me show you the site and where you’ll be sleeping. No doubt you’ll want to get it all set up so that when we’re all exhausted at the end of the day ye can just fall into bed.” Her stomach tipped slightly when he said the word bed and she caught herself in alarm. “What the fuck Beauchamp?” It was true though, there was something about this tall stranger that had provoked a physical reaction in her. Maybe it was his height or his deep scottish brogue. Or, as she reminded herself sharply, simply the fact that she and Frank had broken up last year and she had not had a man in her life or in her bed since. “Pull yourself together.” She murmured. “Pardon?” Fraser turned around hearing her. “Oh nothing, nothing just talking to myself.” He smiled at her and continued walking. He wasn’t just tall, she decided he was also  beautifully built. You could make out his powerful planes of his muscles down through his back and his forearms were strong and slightly freckled where his shirt sleeves were rolled up. Claire shook her head to clear her thoughts. After her time with Frank, whom she had met on a dig several years earlier when he came to examine some Jacobite artefacts that had been uncovered buried in the woods near Inverness, she had vowed not to get involved with anyone again. Her job as a field archaeologist took her away often and for long lengths of time and Frank had grown resentful of her career, especially when it looked set to eclipse his own. She had returned to Oxford from a dig in the Etla Valley, set to turn down a teaching post at Durham. She had arrived a day early to surprise Frank. She had ultimately been the one to be surprised though, when she had found him in bed with a bottle of brandy and the History department secretary. She had left that day, accepting the post at Durham and never looked back. But she had been hurt by the betrayal and convinced that her career was incompatible with a shared life. Afterall, Uncle lamb had never married and maybe that was why.  Still, she was only human and Dr Fraser was very attractive. He had removed his hat revealing the most beautiful mop of red hair and his blue eyes were warm and friendly.

“Here ye go, Dr Beauchamp” Fraser came to halt outside a row of tents. “This one here is yours, you get one to yourself as befits our esteemed leader” She glanced at him sharply looking for signs of mocking in his face at that statement but she found none. “Once you’ve got straight I’ll take ye to the canteen for some lunch and then we’ll get started, aye?”

He’d been at the site for three weeks now doing set up and surveying the area. Thankfully the students and junior archaeologists he’d been assigned this time were better than the last dig he’d been on. Within a week they’d had the site mapped out and were able to start putting up the site buildings. Once that had been done work began surveying and laying out the grid. He’d been apprehensive about meeting Dr Beauchamp, she had a wonderful reputation and he’s read much of her work, having broadly overlapping specialisms, but digs were stressful places. Time was a constant factor even in on partially privately funded digs like this, the push to get as much out of the ground as they could before the money ran out. The thought of working with an unknown colleague was always daunting.

Now she was here, some of his apprehension dissipated. She had trekked through the jungle rather than opting to travel in the relative comfort of the truck convoy and didn’t seem in anyway daunted by the remoteness of the site. But then she’d been on sites like this since she was a wee girl if Ned had told him correctly, the niece of the late, great Quentin Lambert Beauchamp. But there was something else about her too. Something about the way her whiskey coloured eyes appraised everything, something about the way the set of her jaw, her confidence and self possession. He found himself wanting to know more about her.

They sat down to lunch. The canteen tent was almost empty, with just a few people on their staggered breaks, eating snacks and drinking coffee scattered around. It was cool in the tent, or at least compared to outside and large fans kept the air moving and the insects at bay.

“So, what got you into archaeology?” She asked between bites of her pasta.

“Oh, I did a year out before uni and ended up on a dig at Ephesus. It was just supposed to be a laugh, but it turned out it was what I really wanted to do.”

“And a specialist in mesoamerican iconography and architecture? Seems an odd choice for a boy from the Highlands” She asked with a smile. He tilted his head in acknowledgement of the recognition of his accent before continuing.

“Well actually, that would be the influence of one Dr Beauchamp” He smiled slightly at her surprise at this. “I was lucky enough to do a dig in Belize during my undergraduate studies. He was the lead on it. I never saw a man with such passion for his work. He inspired me.”

Dr Beauchamp smiled and he felt his heart flutter a little. She really was lovely with that hair and that soft creamy skin. But smart too, and funny.

“Well then” she laughed. “I guess that makes two of us, Dr Fraser.”

“Jamie.”he said impulsively “You can call me Jamie”

For a moment she looked slightly taken aback at the sudden familiarity and he cringed a little at his own unprofessionalism. He was about to apologise when he golden eyes softened again. She tilted her head a little as she looked him and he once again felt a slight flutter in the depths of his stomach.

“Claire.” she replied.

50 fascinating facts you should know about Scotland, apparently.

1. The official animal of Scotland is the Unicorn.

2. The shortest scheduled flight in the world is one-and-a-half miles long from Westray to Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. The journey takes 1 minute 14 seconds to complete.

3. Scotland has approximately 790 islands, 130 of which are inhabited.

4. The Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae (pictured below), on the island of Orkney, is the oldest building in Britain, dating from 3100 BC.

5. The Hamilton Mausoleum in South Lanarkshire has the longest echo of any man-made structure in the world; a whole 15 seconds.
(Edit - longest echo is now at 112 seconds taken in a man-made structure has been set in an underground fuel depot constructed in Scotland before World War Two.)

6. Scotland has more than 600 square miles of freshwater lakes, including the famous Loch Ness.

7. The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, is only its second largest city, after Glasgow.

8. Edinburgh was the first city in the world which had its own fire brigade.

9. Like Rome, Edinburgh was built on seven hills and the capital has more listed buildings than anywhere in the world.

10. Scotland had its own monarch until 1603. After Elizabeth I died,James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, ruling both countries.

11. St Andrews Links is considered the “home of golf”; the sport has been played there since the 15th century.

12. Queen Victoria is reputed to have smoked cigarettes during her visits to the Highlands of Scotland to keep away midges.

13.Edinburgh was home to Skye terrier Grey Friar’s Bobby, who captured the hearts of the nation by sitting on the grave of his dead owner for 14 years.

14.Scotland is currently the second largest country in the UK, after England.

15. The highest point in Scotland is Ben Nevis, at 4,406ft (1343m)

More facts after the cut.

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