martes, 29 de julio de 2014

Orkney dig dispels caveman image of ancestors

THE image of our Neolithic ancestors as simple souls carving out a primitive existence has been dispelled. 

The Ness of Brodgar site in Orkney. Photographs: Jim Richardson/National Geographic

A groundbreaking excavation of a 5,000-year-old temple complex in Orkney has uncovered evidence to suggest that prehistoric people were a great deal more sophisticated than previously thought.

The archaeological dig at the Ness of Brodgar, which is still in its early stages, has already thrown up discoveries that archaeologists say will force us to re-evaluate our understanding of how our ancestors lived.
The picture that has emerged so far points to a complex and capable society that displayed impeccable workmanship and created an integrated landscape.

Until as recently as 30 years ago, the Ring of Brodgar, the Stones of Stenness, and the Maes Howe tomb, all in Orkney, were seen as isolated monuments with separate histories. Now it appears they were built as part of a connected community, although its purpose remains unknown.

Archaeologist Nick Card, excavation director with the Archaeology Institute at the University of the Highlands and Islands, says the ancient ruins are turning British pre-history on its head. “What the Ness is telling us is that this was a much more integrated landscape than anyone ever suspected,” he said.

“All these monuments are inextricably linked in some grand theme we can only guess at. The people who built all this were a far more complex and capable society than has usually been portrayed.”

The archaeological excavation, which is featured in the August edition of National Geo­graphic magazine, has yielded thousands of priceless artefacts – ceremonial mace heads, polished stone axes, flint knives, a human figurine, miniature thumb pots, beautifully crafted stone spatulas, highly-refined coloured pottery, and more than 650 pieces of Neolithic art, by far the largest collection ever found in Britain. Card pointed out that only 10 per cent of the Ness has so far been excavated, with many more stone structures known to be present under the turf nearby.[...]

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