Heart of Neolithic Orkney
Heart of Neolithic Orkney
The group of Neolithic monuments on Orkney consists of a large chambered tomb (Maes Howe), two ceremonial stone circles (the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar) and a settlement (Skara Brae), together with a number of unexcavated burial, ceremonial and settlement sites. The group constitutes a major prehistoric cultural landscape which gives a graphic depiction of life in this remote archipelago in the far north of Scotland some 5,000 years ago.
Coeur néolithique des Orcades
Le groupe de monuments néolithiques des Orcades consiste en une grande tombe à chambres funéraires (Maes Howe), deux cercles de pierres cérémoniels (les pierres dressées de Stenness et le cercle de Brogar) et un foyer de peuplement (Skara Brae), ainsi que dans un certain nombre de sites funéraires, cérémoniels et d'établissement non encore fouillés. L'ensemble constitue un important paysage culturel préhistorique retraçant la vie il y a 5 000 ans dans cet archipel lointain, au nord de l'Écosse.
قلب أوركني النيوليتي
تتألف مجموعة النصب النيوليتية في أوركني من قبر كبير مزوّد بحجرات جنائزية ومن حلقتين من الحجارة الطقسية (وهي حجارة ستينيس المنتصبة وحلقة بروغار) ومن عدد من المواقع الجنائزية الطقسية والمنشأت التي لم تخضع للتنقيب بعد. وتشكل هذه المجموعة منظراً ثقافياً هاماً من مرحلة ما قبل التاريخ وتروي مسيرة 5000 عام من هذا الأرخبيل البعيد شمال اسكتلندا.
Памятники неолита на Оркнейских островах
Группа памятников неолита на Оркнейских островах состоит из большой погребальной камеры (Maes Howe), двух церемониальных колец камней (Камни Стеннес и Круг Бродгара) и поселения (Skara Brae) с множеством еще не раскопанных погребальных, церемониальных и жилых объектов. Вся группа представляет крупный доисторический культурный ландшафт, который дает наглядную картину жизни на этом удаленном архипелаге на дальнем севере Шотландии около 5 тыс. лет назад.
Núcleo neolítico de las Orcadas
El grupo de monumentos neolíticos de las Islas Orcadas comprende una gran tumba con cámaras funerarias (Maes Howe), dos círculos de piedras ceremoniales (las piedras enhiestas de Stenness y el círculo de Brodgar) y un lugar de poblamiento (Skara Brae), así como algunos sitios funerarios, lugares ceremoniales y asentamientos humanos que todavía no se han excavado. En su conjunto, estos vestigios forman un importante paisaje cultural prehistórico, ilustrativo del modo de vida del hombre en este remoto archipiélago del norte de Escocia hace 5.000 años.
Hart van neolithisch-Orkney
De groep neolithische monumenten op Orkney bestaat uit een grote grafkamer (Maes Howe), twee ceremoniële steencirkels (de Stenen van Stenness en de Ring van Brodgar) en een nederzetting (Skara Brae). Verder zijn er een aantal uitgegraven begrafenisplekken, ceremoniële plaatsen en nederzettingen te vinden. De Orkney-monumenten vormen een belangrijk prehistorisch cultureel landschap. Ze geven een grafische voorstelling van hoe het leven er zo'n 5000 jaar geleden uitzag in deze afgelegen archipel in het verre noorden van Schotland. De bewoners van het gebied hielden zich bezig het hoeden van runderen en schapen, visserij en graanteelt. Allemaal karakteristieke activiteiten voor een neolithische gemeenschap.
Outstanding Universal Value
The Orkney Islands lie 15km north of the coast of Scotland. The monuments are in two areas, some 6.6 km apart on the island of Mainland, the largest in the archipelago.
The group of monuments that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney consists of a remarkably well-preserved settlement, a large chambered tomb, and two stone circles with surrounding henges, together with a number of associated burial and ceremonial sites. The group constitutes a major relict cultural landscape graphically depicting life five thousand years ago in this remote archipelago.
The four monuments that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney are unquestionably among the most important Neolithic sites in Western Europe. These are the Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness, Maeshowe and Skara Brae. They provide exceptional evidence of the material and spiritual standards as well as the beliefs and social structures of this dynamic period of prehistory.
The four main monuments, consisting of the four substantial surviving standing stones of the elliptical Stones of Stenness and the surrounding ditch and bank of the henge, the thirty-six surviving stones of the circular Ring of Brodgar with the thirteen Neolithic and Bronze Age mounds that are found around it and the stone setting known as the Comet Stone, the large stone chambered tomb of Maeshowe, whose passage points close to midwinter sunset, and the sophisticated settlement of Skara Brae with its stone built houses connected by narrow roofed passages, together with the Barnhouse Stone and the Watch Stone, serve as a paradigm of the megalithic culture of north-western Europe that is unparalleled.
The property is characteristic of the farming culture prevalent from before 4000 BC in northwest Europe. It provides exceptional evidence of, and demonstrates with exceptional completeness, the domestic, ceremonial, and burial practices of a now vanished 5000-year-old culture and illustrates the material standards, social structures and ways of life of this dynamic period of prehistory, which gave rise to Avebury and Stonehenge (England), Bend of the Boyne (Ireland) and Carnac (France).
The monuments on the Brodgar and Stenness peninsulas were deliberately situated within a vast topographic bowl formed by a series of visually interconnected ridgelines stretching from Hoy to Greeny Hill and back. They are also visually linked to other contemporary and later monuments around the lochs. They thus form a fundamental part of a wider, highly complex archaeological landscape, which stretches over much of Orkney. The current, open and comparatively undeveloped landscape around the monuments allows an understanding of the apparently formal connections between the monuments and their natural settings. The wealth of contemporary burial and occupation sites in the buffer zone constitute an exceptional relict cultural landscape that supports the value of the main sites.
Criterion (i): The major monuments of the Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, the chambered tomb of Maeshowe, and the settlement of Skara Brae display the highest sophistication in architectural accomplishment; they are technologically ingenious and monumental masterpieces.
Criterion (ii): The Heart of Neolithic Orkney exhibits an important interchange of human values during the development of the architecture of major ceremonial complexes in the British Isles, Ireland and northwest Europe.
Criterion (iii): Through the combination of ceremonial, funerary and domestic sites, the Heart of Neolithic Orkney bears a unique testimony to a cultural tradition that flourished between about 3000 BC and 2000 BC. The state of preservation of Skara Brae is unparalleled amongst Neolithic settlement sites in northern Europe.
Criterion (iv): The Heart of Neolithic Orkney is an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble and archaeological landscape that illustrate a significant stage of human history when the first large ceremonial monuments were built.
All the monuments lie within the designated boundaries of the property. However, the boundaries are tightly drawn and do not encompass the wider landscape setting of the monuments that provides their essential context, nor other monuments that can be seen to support the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Part of the landscape is covered by a two part buffer zone, centred on Skara Brae in the west and on the Mainland monuments in the central west.
This fragile landscape is vulnerable to incremental change. Physical threats to the monuments include visitor footfall and coastal erosion.
The level of authenticity in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney is high. The state of preservation at Skara Brae is unparalleled for a prehistoric settlement in northern Europe. Where parts of the site have been lost or reconstructed during early excavations, there is sufficient information to identify and interpret the extent of such works.
Interventions at Maeshowe have been antiquarian and archaeological in nature; the monument is mostly in-situ and the passageway retains its alignment on the winter solstice sunset. Re-erection of some fallen stones at Stones of Stenness and Ring of Brodgar took place in the 19th and early 20th century, and works at Stenness also involved the erection of a ‘dolmen’, now reconfigured. There are, however, many antiquarian views of the monuments attesting to their prior appearance, and it is clear that they remain largely in-situ.
The central west Mainland monuments remain dominant features in the rural landscape. Their form and design are well-preserved and visitors are easily able to appreciate their location, setting and interrelationships with one another, with contemporary monuments situated outside the designated property, and with their geographical setting. This relationship with the wider topographic landscape helps define the modern experience of the property and seems to have been inextricably linked to the reasons for its development and use in prehistory.
Protection and management requirements
World Heritage properties in Scotland are protected through the following pieces of legislation. The Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 and The Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 provide a framework for local and regional planning policy and act as the principal pieces of primary legislation guiding planning and development in Scotland. Additionally, individual buildings, monuments and areas of special archaeological or historical interest are designated and protected under The Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 and the 1979 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act.
The Scottish Historic Environment Policy (SHEP) is the primary policy guidance on the protection and management of the historic environment in Scotland. Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) sits alongside the SHEP and is the Government’s national planning policy on the historic environment. It provides for the protection of World Heritage properties by considering the impact of development on their Outstanding Universal Value, authenticity and integrity.
Orkney Islands Council prepared the Local Development Plan that sets out the Council’s policy for assessing planning applications and proposals for the allocation of land for development. The Plan contains policies that address the need to put an appropriate level of protection in place for the property and its setting. Supplementary Planning Guidance for the World Heritage Site has also been produced. These policies and guidance establish a general commitment to preserving the integrity and authenticity of the property. They also seek to manage the impact of development on the wider landscape setting, and to prevent development that would have an adverse impact on its Outstanding Universal Value through the designation of Inner Sensitive Zones, aligned with the two parts of the buffer zone and the identification of sensitive ridgelines outside this area. The Rural Conservation Area at Brodgar includes Maeshowe, the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, and it is envisaged to establish a Rural Conservation Area at the Bay of Skaill.
The property is in the care of Historic Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers. A Management Plan has been prepared by Historic Scotland in consultation with the Partners who share responsibility for managing the sites and access to them: Orkney Islands Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The Management Plan is a framework document, and sets out how the Partners will manage the property for the five years of the Plan period, together with longer-term aims and the Vision to protect, conserve, enhance and enjoy the property to support its Outstanding Universal Value. It does so by identifying a series of key issues and devising specific objectives or actions to address these issues. The Steering Group responsible for implementing the Management Plan comprises representatives of the Partners. Stakeholders drawn from the tourist industry, local landowners and the archaeological community participate in Delivery Groups reporting to the Steering Group with responsibilities for access and interpretation, research and education, conservation and protection, and tourism and marketing.
Condition surveys have been completed for each of the monuments. These documents record previous interventions and include a strategy for future maintenance and conservation. Conservation and maintenance programmes require detailed knowledge of the sites, and are managed and monitored by suitably experienced and qualified professionals. Conservation work undertaken at the sites follows national and international policy and seeks to balance minimum intervention with public accessibility to the monuments. Any intervention is given careful consideration and will only occur following detailed and rigorous analysis of potential consequences. In conservation work, local materials have been used where appropriate.
Management of tourism in and around the World Heritage property seeks to recognise its value to the local economy, and to develop sustainable approaches to tourism. Key approaches include improved dispersal of visitors around the monuments that comprise the property and other sites in the wider area. A World Heritage Ranger Service supports this approach and allows for on-the-ground education about the issues affecting the site.
The relationships and linkages between the monuments and the wider open, almost treeless landscape, and between the monuments that comprise the property and those in the area outside it that support the Outstanding Universal Value are potentially at risk from change and development in the countryside. The long-term need to protect the key relationships between the monuments and their landscape settings and between the property and other related monuments is kept under review by the Steering Group. Policy HE1 as well as The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site in the Local Development Plan and the associated Supplementary Guidance require that developments have no significant negative impact on either the Outstanding Universal Value or the setting of the World Heritage property.
The monuments of Orkney bear unique or exceptional testimony to an important indigenous cultural tradition which flourished over 500-1,000 years but disappeared by about 2000 BC. They are an outstanding example of a type of architectural ensemble and archaeological landscape which illustrates a significant stage of human history, during which the first large ceremonial monuments were built. They are testimony to the cultural achievements of the Neolithic peoples of northern Europe, during the period 3000-2000 BC.
The Orkney Islands lie 15 km north of the coast of Scotland. The island of Mainland is the largest in the archipelago. The Brodgar Rural Conservation Area lies around an isthmus dividing the Loch of Harray to the east and the Loch of Stenness to the west; it includes the sites of Maes Howe, the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. The Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae is on the west coast of Mainland on the southern edge of the Bay of Skaill. It was covered by an immense sand dune until 1850.
The Neolithic period in the British Isles is mostly characterized by monumental architecture and a strong development of ritual. Collective burials and ceremonial enclosures appear, revealing a more complex social structure and a mobilization of the efforts of a large number of individuals towards a common goal. Passage graves such as Maes Howe, built around 3000 BC, were large structures, made from stones ordered to form a passage leading from the outer edge of the mound to the chamber containing the remains of the dead. The large amount of human and animal bones, pottery and other objects discovered in these mounds testify that they were important social and religious centres. The general orientation of these structures also demonstrates the knowledge of the builders in respect to seasonal movements. In the same area, a Neolithic village of stone-built houses connected by passages was discovered and excavated.
The house styles vary according to the different periods of occupation, but the basic components of the interior remain the same: beds to either side and built into the walls, central hearth and dresser, also in stone, in the back. Activities include cattle and sheep herding, fishing and cereal farming, all characteristic of Neolithic communities. There is an evidence for ritual reuse of the religious sites in the early Iron Age, suggested by the presence of pottery in pits.
In the mid-12th century AD, Norsemen and Viking crusaders set foot on the islands. Carved runes on the stones of the main chamber of Maes Howe testify to their presence at that time. The site, quite isolated, is at the present time sited within what is essentially a pastoral landscape.
When it was built 5,000 years ago, the settlement of Skara Brae was further from the sea than it is now, as the sea level was much higher then. The settlement was abandoned some 600 years after it was built, and most of the houses were emptied of their contents. The first written reference to the Ring of Brodgar dates from 1529. The Stones of Stenness were first recorded in 1700. The Norse runic inscriptions at Maes Howe were first recorded in 1862. In the mid-19th century the remains of Skara Brae were revealed when the overlying sand was swept away by a violent storm, and some clearance work took place in 1913. In 1924 a protective breakwater was built. Some restoration work was carried out, respecting the principles of anastylosis as later defined by the Venice Charter (1964), at the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness.
Maes Howe is a Neolithic masterpiece, an exceptionally early architectural accomplishment. With its almost classical strength and simplicity it is a unique survival from 5,000 years ago. It is an expression of genius within a group of people whose other tombs were claustrophobic chambers in smaller mounds. Stenness is a unique and early expression of the ritual customs of the people who buried their dead in tombs like Maes Howe and lived in settlements like Skara Brae. The Ring of Brodgar is the finest known truly circular late Neolithic or early Bronze Age stone ring. Skara Brae has particularly rich surviving remains. It displays remarkable preservation of stone-built furniture and a fine range of ritual and domestic artefacts, which together demonstrate the domestic, ritual, and burial practices of a now vanished 5,000-year-old culture with exceptional completeness.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
The Neolithic period in the British Isles is mostly characterized by monumental architecture and a strong development of ritual. Collective burials and ceremonial enclosures appear, revealing a more complex social structure and a mobilization of the efforts of a large number of individuals towards a common goal.
Passage graves such as Maes Howe, built around 3000 BC, were large structures, made of stones ordered to form a passage leading from the outer edge of the mound to the chamber containing the remains of the dead. Whether these graves were meant for the elite or for all the people of the community is still not proven by the specialists, but the large amount of human and animal bones, pottery and other objects discovered in these mounds testify that they were important social and religious centres. The general orientation of these structures also demonstrate the knowledge of the builders in respect to seasonal movements. The passage of Maes Howe, for example, points close to midwinter sunset and the setting sun of winter solstice shines on its chamber.
The Ring of Brogar, a true circle formed by sixty tall standing stones with an outer ditch in circular form, also seems to have served the purpose of observing solar and lunar events, although conclusive evidence has not yet been brought forth by scientists.
In the same area, a Neolithic village of stone-built houses connected by passages was discovered and excavated. The earliest settlement started around 3100 BC. The site was then occupied for some 600 years. The buildings visible today are dated between 2900 and 2600 BC. The house styles vary according to the different periods of occupation, but the basic components of the interior remain the same: beds to either side and built into the walls, central hearth, and dresser, also in stone, in the back. Activities include cattle and sheep herding, fishing, and cereal farming, all characteristic of Neolithic communities. This site also has evidence for ritual activity, closely interlinked with domestic activities, which is demonstrated by the presence of scratched shapes close to doors and divisions in the passages connecting the houses, caches of beads and pendants, and buried individuals inside some houses.
The structures of Orkney were built during the period extending from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. There is evidence for ritual re-use of the religious sites in the Early Iron Age, suggested by the presence of pottery in pits. The settlements, however, had a fairly short life span of about 600 years.
In the mid 12th century AD, Norsemen and Viking crusaders set foot on the islands. Carved runes on the stones of the main chamber of Maes Howe testify to their presence at that time. The site, quite isolated, is at the present time sited within what is essentially a pastoral landscape.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
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