Reference Entry

Skara Brae

Anna Ritchie

in Oxford Art Online

Published online January 2003 | e-ISBN: 9781884446054 | DOI:

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Neolithic village on the shore of the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of mainland Orkney, Scotland. During its occupation, between c. 3100 and c. 2500 bc, the village was set in open grassland well back from the shore; its present exposed situation is the result of marine erosion. Skara Brae was discovered as a result of storm damage to the sand-dunes in 1850, and there have been several excavations since then, the most important being those of V. Gordon Childe in the late 1930s and of David Clarke in the early 1970s. Skara Brae is extraordinary among Neolithic settlements in Britain for its excellent preservation and for the range of prestigious items of equipment found there.

The village consists of dry-stone houses, set close together and linked by passages. Probably no more than six to eight were in use at any one time. The latest and best-preserved houses stand roofless to a maximum height of 3 m. Set within walls of an average 2 m thickness, the houses consist of a single rectangular room, measuring up to 6.4 m across, with rounded corners and small corbelled intramural cells. Much of the furniture survives because it was built of stone (...

Reference Entry.  461 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Archaeology ; Prehistoric Art

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