A huge mysterious structure has been discovered under the largest Neolithic rubbish dump in Scotland

By Culture24 Reporter | 24 August 2016

The "sheer size and scale" of a set of huge slabs have surprised archaeologists in one of the final trenches dug at a historic site on an Orkney ness

a photo of a large outdoor archaeological site on the coast of Scotland's Ness of Brodgar
A close-up aerial picture of Trench T at Ness of Brodgar, in Orkney, showing the large upright stones found during the final stages of a dig © ORCA. Courtesy James Robertson, orkneyskycam.co.uk
Archaeologists say they were completely unprepared for a series of “amazing” finds beneath north Scotland’s largest known Neolithic midden.

a photo of a large outdoor archaeological site on the coast of Scotland's Ness of Brodgar
The dig was carried out by archaeologists from the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute© Archaeology Institute UHI
Early speculation suggests the giant structure could have been the first building created at the Ness of Brodgar – an area where human remains, Neolithic seaweed and rock art have previously surfaced – or a chambered tomb.

It was covered by the largest Neolithic rubbish dump in Scotland, according to experts describing the stones as “perplexing”.

“The sheer size and scale of the stones unearthed are unprecedented on this site,” says Nick Card, the Site Director who oversaw the excavation of the round-edged stones.

a photo of a large outdoor archaeological site on the coast of Scotland's Ness of Brodgar
The structure is believed to have been special to the builders behind it© ORCA. Courtesy James Robertson, orkneyskycam.co.uk
“The way the stones are built into the construction is also unique to the Ness. This all suggests that they may have been re-used and taken from elsewhere.

a photo of a large outdoor archaeological site on the coast of Scotland's Ness of Brodgar
The round edges of the stones suggest they were weathered or worked in the same way that some of the standing stones at nearby Stenness appear to be© Archaeology Institute UHI
“Perhaps they may be part of a stone circle that pre-dates the main Ness site. It is all a bit of mystery and we won’t know more until we do more work.”

a photo of a large outdoor archaeological site on the coast of Scotland's Ness of Brodgar
The area of the site where the structure was found is not open to the public© Archaeology Institute UHI
The imposing nearby Watch Stone, described as “a great sentinel stone” by James Wilson in his account of the coasts and isles of Scotland in 1842, is a larger monument, standing more than 19 feet over the Brig o' Brodgar.

Archaeologists believe the newly-discovered behemoth could have been a twin to the stone, possibly as part of a largely-dismantled former stone circle.

The team plan to return to the site in pursuit of more certain conclusions next year.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Three sites to find history in Scotland

, Edinburgh
The rare and exquisite jadeitite axeheads found around the Scottish countryside have long puzzled archaeologists. How did these beautiful Neolithic axeheads end up in Scotland, so far from their origins in the North Italian Alps around 6,000 years ago? Find out in the current exhibition, Stone Age Jade from the Alps. Until October 30 2016.

The Scottish Crannog Centre, Perthshire
The Scottish Crannog Centre features a unique reconstruction of an early Iron Age loch-dwelling, built by the Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology. This authentic recreation is based on the excavation evidence from the 2,600-year-old site of 'Oakbank Crannog', one of the 18 crannogs preserved in Loch Tay, Scotland.

Auchindrain Museum, Argyll
Auchindrain was the last inhabited Highland farming township, a place where people lived and worked from the medieval period up until the 1960s. In Highland farming townships, land was held and worked in common, and the typically clustered layout of this type of settlement is a reflection of the tight-knit nature of the communities that belonged to them.
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