Archaeologists On Orkney Come Face-to-Face With A Neolithic Scot

Jakob Kainz, a young archaeologist working on the excavation of the Links of Noltland on the Orkney Island of Westray, has discovered what is being described as a eureka find Scotlands earliest representation of the human face. Crudely scraped into a flat piece of sandstone, and measuring just 3.5 centimetres by 3 centimetres, the so-called Orkney Venus might not look like much, but its got the phizzogs of all from leading heritage experts to the Scottish Culture Minister Mike Russell who called it a find of tremendous importance beaming from ear to ear.

The tiny pendant dates from as far back as 4,500-5,000 years ago. No other depiction of the human form dating from the Neolithic period has ever been found in Scotland, and only two others of comparable age have been found in the UK at large. None of the archaeology team have seen anything like it before, commented Richard Strachan, project manager and senior archaeologist with the Historic Scotland cultural resources team, who are behind the dig at Links of Noltland. Its incredibly exciting. The discovery of a Neolithic carving of a human was quite a moment for everyone to share in.

The head is round, and the body lozenge-shaped. Eyebrows, tiny eyes and a nose are identifiable on the face, while the scalp seems to have hair carved into it. It looks to be female: patterns on the back are suggestive of the fabric of womens clothing, while two round dots on the front of the chest appear to be breasts suggesting a similar fascination with the form of the fairer sex among prehistoric Scots as the carvers of the far older Venus of Hohle Fels, which was found in Germany earlier this year. Such a figurative design is ultra-rare for the period in Scotland. This is certainly a significant discovery, said Dr Gordon Noble, of Aberdeen University, speaking to the Scotsman newspaper. We have some Neolithic art in Scotland, but it is all abstract art designs.

This is certainly a significant discovery. We have some Neolithic art in Scotland, but it is all abstract art designs. — Dr Gordon Noble, Aberdeen University

Orkney one of the northern most groups of islands in Scotland is an area of immense archaeological importance, and bears ancient sites from the settlement of Skara Brae to the Ring of Brodgar. It recently made archaeological headlines with the discovery of a massive cathedral.

Links of Noltland a prehistoric settlement in the dunes around Grobust Bay, in north-west Westray is one of the most recent locations on the islands to be investigated in depth, after the discovery of the remains of a Neolithic farmhouse at the spot. Scottish Culture Minister Russell added that the find of the five millennia old face, once again emphasises the tremendous importance of Orkneys archaeology and also of the Links of Noltland site.

Picture from Historic Scotland. All rights reserved.