Neolithic Neighbours

Passing by the Old Man of Hoy on our way to the Orkneys, I marveled again at the beauty and diversity of this land.


Our first stop was at Skara Brae, an abandoned neolithic village on the coast of Orkney. Five thousand years ago a small community of people lived together in a settlement of creative and functional buildings that kept them warm and dry, and allowed them to be productive and fairly self-sustaining. Then, after some 200 years, something happened; the people abandoned the their homes very suddenly, and the village was buried by sand. One telling clue was a strand of beads, probably snagged and broken in the rush to leave, that was scattered along the exit passageway. We know they left in a hurry, and we know there were no bodies found amongst the structures, but we can only surmise that it must have been a terrible storm that drove these people from their homes. Once buried, it would be almost 5000 before the village would be rediscovered and excavated.


Today, those homes, passageways, and workspaces give us the chance to look back in time and to consider a way of life that, though primitive, is actually not far different from our own. There is something very comforting and peaceful about visiting their homes, seeing the way they organized themselves, and feeling kinship to those long-dead ancestors.


As a modern-day woman, I resonate with my prehistoric sister who displays her prized possessions and organizes her tableware on a fashionable dresser, I admire the efficiency of her kitchen with its storage area for live lobster and the coziness of her beds. To me, she is clever and organized, with an eye to beauty. Form and function were clearly both important factors in these neolithic lives!