National Geographic : 2014 Aug
1 2. OUTDOOR RITUALS Evidence suggests people didn’t live here year-round but visited periodically, perhaps to make offerings as part of a ritual procession through the site and its many buildings. CIRCA 2800 B.C. The scene depicted here shows the Ness of Brodgar site in its heyday. The com- plex was remade several times and constantly evolved throughout its thousand-year period of use. 1. ANCIENT MARSHLAND During the Neolithic, water levels were still rising after the last ice age, so the shore was lined with bogs and marshlands. Ness of Brodgar Discovered little more than a decade ago, this mysterious temple complex is now believed to be the epicenter of what was once a vast ritualistic landscape. The site’s extraordinary planning, craftsmanship, and thousand-year history are helping rewrite our entire understanding of Neolithic Britain. JOHN TOMANIO, NGM STAFF; AMANDA HOBBS ART: DYLAN COLE. NGM MAPS SOURCE: NICK CARD, ARCHAEOLOGY INSTITUTE, UNIVERSITY OF THE HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS 2 3 4 6 0 ft 1,000 0m200 Loch of Harray Loch of Stenness Maes Howe Ness of Brodgar Ring of Brodgar Stones of Stenness 6. MORE THAN TRASH Over 16 feet high, this midden pile is the biggest found in Neolithic Britain and may have had ceremo- nial functions involving fertility and cycles of life, death, decay, and renewal. 4. WHERE HEAVEN AND EARTH MEET Located in the center of the site and the surrounding bowl of land, this standing stone aligned with the spring and fall equinoxes and might have served as a symbolic axis between earth and sky. 5. SOPHISTICATED BUILDING TECHNIQUES The Ness provides the first evidence in northern Europe of roofs made of carefully trimmed, rectangular stone slates. Recent finds also indicate some walls may have been decorated with natural pigments and colored stones. 3. ENCLOSED IN STONE Roughly 10 feet high and up to 18 feet wide, these are some of the largest prehistoric walls ever found in Britain. KINDRED SITES The Ring of Brodgar, Ness of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness, and Maes Howe likely formed a larger complex linked by religious ritual. 5 This domino-size figure is the earliest depiction of a human face found in Britain.