Heart of Neolithic Orkney


  • Name: Heart of Neolithic Orkney
  • Location: Scotland (United Kingdom)
  • Year added: 1998
  • Criteria: i – to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius; ii – to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design; iii – to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared; iv – to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history
  • Number of Cultural or Mixed Heritage Sites in the United Kingdom: 24

Basic Archaeological Site Information:

  • Size of Site: 15 ha
  • Time Period Site Represents: 3000-2000 BC
  • Cultural Period: Neolithic
  • Cultural Group: Neolithic peoples of Northern Europe

Archaeological Summary:

The Neolithic period in the British Isles is known for its architecture and ritual.  The Heart of Neolithic Orkney, in the Orkney Islands, includes four main sites: Maes Howe, the Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and Skara Brae.  Maes Howe is one of many large tombs in the area.  Each one is built of stone and contains passages leading to the inner chambers where the dead were buried.  It is also thought to have had social and religious importance due to the large number of human and animal bones, as well as pottery and other objects.  The mound is about 100 ft in diameter, and 36 feet tall.  It was first excavated in 1861 by James Farrer.  The Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar are ceremonial stone circles.   The Ring of Brodgar originally contained around 60 stones and is 380 m in circumference.  The Stones of Stenness only contains 4 of the original 12 stones and is 31.7 m in diameter.  Records of the Ring of Brodgar date back to 1529, while records of the Stones of Stenness go back to 1700.  These three sites are on the isthmus between Loch Harray and Loch Stenness.  Skara Brae is a settlement on the west coast of the main island in the Orkney Islands.  It consists of stone houses connected by passages.  Each house contain beds built into the walls, a hearth in the center, and a dresser.  Styles of houses vary depending on when they were occupied.  The settlement was first discovered in the mid 1800s when the sand covering the sight was cleared away by a storm. 


There are no known threats to this site at this time.


Stones of Stenness (Photo by Wknight94 from wikimedia commons)

Ring of Brodgar (Photo by Paddy Patterson)

Maes Howe (Photo by Peter Ward)

Skara Brae (photo by Kevin Rothwell)






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