Course: Jacobites

Course Date: 11th - 17th December 2017

Course Page


Ness of Brodgar


Early Scotland

- Climate Change

- Mesolithic Hunter Gatherers

- Storegga Slides

Simulation -


The Neolithic

- Climate and Sea Levels

- The Neolithic Bundle

- The Journey

- The Neolithic Highway

Camster Film


Neolithic Orkney

- Development

- Sacred Landscapes

"Ness of Brodgar

Gibson sums it up: “The difference between this and what we had before is like comparing Texas with the Isle of Wight.” What happened here remains a source of speculation. In time, though, there is hope that, as this settlement continues to reveal more of itself, increased understanding will follow. The stone slab found on that cold day in March 2003 sparked further geological probing. This showed that beneath the soil there were numerous anomalies indicating human intervention.

Amid the 21 structures made of fine-grained sandstone, a repository of art, pottery and other artefacts has been uncovered. The materials to construct this place were carried here over several miles from various parts of the islands, suggesting that these rooms and chambers were a dynamic meeting place where people came for trade and ceremonials.

Card says: “I think we had always tended to depict our neolithic ancestors as stone-age hippies who frolicked around large stones in some herb-induced fugue. But this settlement depicts a dynamic, skilled and creative people whose workmanship would bear scrutiny with 21st-century methods."

- Structures and artifacts

"In short, did the advent of new styles of tomb and house (and other material culture) mean the advent of new people with new ways, did it signal some sort of social unrest or change, or was it just a matter of time?

You will notice that the uncertainties of dating at the time were such that we were able to assume that everything had changed at much the same time.

Now, I read with interest a new paper, by Alex Bayliss and colleagues, recently published in Antiquity. Alex is one of the wizards of radiocarbon dating. Using a statistical technique, known as Bayesian analysis, she is able to produce much tighter estimates of age from calibrated radiocarbon dates in conjunction with existing understanding of the archaeological record. Together with her colleagues they have been looking at the dates available for the sites of Neolithic Orkney, and taking many new dates as well, in order to provide a detailed chronology for Neolithic Orkney and consider what it may mean.

It is an interesting, thought provoking paper that pulls together a huge amount of information. It has received much attention since it was published. There is a lot of useful information relating to issues like the length of use of specific sites, and the ways in which they may relate to one another. But I am left questioning some of their conclusions, and somehow I ended up feeling a little disappointed. One of the problems with publishing in Antiquity is that you have to keep your papers short, and, in this case, it meant that the evidence needed to back up their statements was often lacking.

There is useful information relating to the antiquity of timber houses in Orkney together with the stone buildings that became more common. There is information relating to the dating of different types of tomb, and to the pottery types. The general conclusion seems to be that some social differentiation and the concurrence of new ideas took place fairly early on in Neolithic Orkney (the overlapping of the different styles in tombs and pottery for example), but that around 2800 BC something happened that led to a geographical shift in settlements and the development of larger houses and more elaborate pottery. The authors note that events in the Neolithic heartland of Stenness-Brodgar were, however, very different.

One of my problems relates to this comparison of the sites in the Stenness-Brodgar area with those elsewhere in Orkney. Stenness-Brodgar is a very different place with a very different type of site. Ness of Brodgar is discussed as a ‘place of human dwelling’. Now there is not much yet published about Ness, but all the material that one can find leads one to believe that it is not a common or garden settlement. Surely, it is not, therefore, surprising to find that events there were different to those elsewhere. The authors are not, as I understand it, comparing like with like.

There is also a general assumption that the archaeology of Orkney is such that the known sites provide a representative sample of what went on in the past. I find this very doubtful. Not only does general research suggest that this is not so, the known sites represent only the places where we have looked for (or found), sites. But also, the very existence of sites like Ness of Brodgar, totally unknown until some ten years ago, tells us that we don’t know everything about Neolithic Orkney.

The authors conclude by suggesting that the variety of style and material culture in the earlier centuries of Neolithic Orkney may represent a competitive society in which communities sought to outdo each other in the monuments and houses that they built and the goods that they used. In this, the advent of elaborate flat-bottomed Grooved Ware pottery and different types of tomb might be seen as a way for one community to differentiate itself from others. Continual elaboration of house form and material culture is used to back this up and the paper talks of political tension and social concerns. Finally, the arrival of the Orkney vole is brought into play as a proxy for the introduction of new ideas and possibly even people directly from Europe in the later fourth millennium cal BC."

- Liminal Lifestyles

Stone Tools


- Liminal Lifestyles

Tomb of the Eagles

Tomb of the Dogs


Ness of Brodgar

- Grooved Ware

- Distribution


Myths and Mysteries

- Maes Howe

- Merry Dancers

- Animism

- Midwinter


Where Next

- Conservation


The Jacobites

The Union of the Crowns - 1600

- Henry VIII

- The English Civil War

- The Stuarts


The Glorious Revolution - 1688

- The Jacobites

- The 'Revolution'

- Warming Pan

- Hamilton

- First Rising


The Union of Scotland and England - 1707

- Reactions

- Impacts

- Path to Conflict


Competing Empires


The Nature of Monarchy and Government





The 15

- French

- Spain

Weaponry Used -


The Black Watch

- Wade

- Recruitment


The 45


- Civil War




The Impact of the 45




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