Date: 16-8-99

 Journal Entry No.1

The students acclimatise to the archaeological environment in Orkney by visiting Skara Brae.

The late Neolithic period of Orkney prehistory is outstanding in British archaeology because of the presence of stone constructed, standing buildings, in particular houses arranged in villages. The most well-known example of a late Neolithic village in Orkney is Skara Brae with its house walls rising to a staggering two metres in height. But this level of survival is unique owing to the sand covering the site soon after its abandonment. Undoubtedly, dotted across the Orcadian landscape many other such villages lie concealed beneath the soil in a lesser state of preservation; the only problem is finding them.

Clearly, if we are to begin to understand Neolithic societies it is vital that such sites are discovered and examined before they are completely destroyed through ploughing or other destructive activities. It was this concern that prompted the initiation of the Cuween - Wideford landscape project in which we are attempting to locate late Neolithic - Early Bronze Age settlement in the central area of Mainland, Orkney. In this goal we have been extremely fortunate in discovering two settlement sites within the small study area. See panoramic image on the home page which shows this area.

The discovery of the first settlement or village at Stonehall was due to the interest and knowledge of the farmer, Mr Ronnie Flett, who collected a series of Neolithic artefacts from a particular field after ploughing. The second site at Crossiecrown was discovered by fieldwalking (but once again after obtaining vital information from the farmer Mr Scott Harcus). Both sites, although being concealed beneath the plough-soil, are hopefully going to provide amazing results from large-scale excavation which we are beginning this week.

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