An aerial view showing the sea-threatened remains in the Links of Noltland. Crown Copyright Historic Scotland
The sands of time have been rapidly eroding at the Orkney Bronze Age site, the Links of Noltland. Before everything is lost to the sea around the island of Westray, Historic Scotland have been carrying out a thorough excavation to learn everything they can.
The dig at the ancient dune-protected houses has now turned up an unexpected and impressive discovery dating to Neolithic times, archaeologists have announced following the conclusion of their work.
“A previously unknown Neolithic structure has been found that is very different from anything else known to exist at this remarkable site,” explained Peter Yeoman, Historic Scotland senior archaeologist.
“It was built using dressed stone and was clearly intended to look impressive from the outside. This marks it out from houses of the time, the exteriors of which tended to be created with function rather than looks in mind.”
“However there were some very special buildings, including certain tombs, where a great deal of architectural skill went into their architecture.”
The National Museum of Scotland first investigated the site between 1978 and 1981, unearthing a Neolithic building. Crown Copyright Historic Scotland
The structure is about seven metres wide and even longer in length, but only part of it has so far been exposed. Excavations in the 1980s initially turned up a Neolithic building, but the nature of what was recently found has surprised the contracted team from EASE Archaeology. Further work will be carried out to discover more about what its function in the site might have been.
Noltland is known to have been inhabited at several different times, and finds including polished bone beads, tools and grooved-ware pottery identified the large structure as about 4,000 years old. It is now being backfilled to protect it from winter storms.
“This has been a highly successful programme of excavation and research,” said Mr Yeoman. “We have been able to gather a great deal of information about the Bronze Age houses that had been exposed by storms.”
“At the same time we discovered even more about the Neolithic structure excavated by Dr David Clarke and were delighted to find the measures taken by Historic Scotland to protect it had worked very well and kept it in excellent condition.”
“We monitor the condition of this area very closely and will continue to do all we can to keep it safe as it is of great archaeological importance.”
Post-excavation work will now take place in order to get the fullest understanding of information gathered during the project.
Links of Noltland lies behind Grobust Bay on the north coast of Westray. It is an exceptionally important site, believed to be more extensive than Skara Brae.