Ancient Orkney

Stone Age Farmers – Life
The first farmers arrived in Orkney about 6000 years ago.  They are known as Neolithic: they used stone tools made from local flint and chert; they made a range of highly decorated pots and they used other natural resources such as bone and antler as well as wool and hide. They kept cattle and sheep, and they cleared small fields for their crops. In addition they made use of the many wild resources such as fish, shellfish, birds, eggs, deer, nuts, roots, fungi and berries.  At first they lived in small timber farmsteads but with the passing of time the woodlands in Orkney diminished and they turned to local stone, which made an excellent building material.  Around this time they also grouped together to live in villages such as Skara Brae.

Stone Age Farmers – Death
The Neolithic communities of Orkney built prominent Chambered Tombs like Maeshowe or Unstan where they could bury their dead and venerate the ancestors. They built sacred sites such as the Ring of Brodgar to carry out many of the special, ceremonial activities that celebrated the community, individual lives, and their relationship with the world around them.

The Wider Neolithic World
The Neolithic farmers of Orkney were in touch with the families and friends left behind in mainland Scotland. They were part of a culture that stretched across the British Isles at the time and we find similar sites from the south of England to the shores of Ireland. There is evidence that Orkney was one of the most important centres of the period.