Heart of Neolithic Orkney

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Last week we were in Britannia to uncover the Ironbridge Gorge.

Today we’re staying in Britannia as we check out the Heart of Neolithic Orkney!

The Standing Stones of Stenness

The Orkney Islands lie 9.3 miles north of the coast of Scotland. The monuments are in 2 areas, some 4.1 miles 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 2 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 4 main monuments, consisting of the 4 substantial surviving elliptical stones of the Standing Stones of Stenness and the surrounding ditch and bank of the henge, the 36 surviving stones of the circular Ring of Brodgar with the 13 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.

Excavated dwellings at Skara Brae, Europe’s most complete Neolithic village.

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).

How This Relates to Rome:

Scotland comes from Scoti, the Latin name for the Gaels. The Late Latin word Scotia (Land of the Gaels) was initially used to refer to Ireland.

By the 11th Century at the latest, Scotia was being used to refer to (Gaelic-speaking) Scotland north of the River Forth, alongside Albania or Albany, both derived from the Gaelic Alba. The use of the words Scots and Scotland to encompass all of what is now Scotland became common in the Late Middle Ages.

The written protohistory of Scotland began with the arrival of the Roman Empire in southern and central Great Britain, when the Romans occupied what is now England and Wales, administering it as a province called Britannia. Roman invasions and occupations of southern Scotland were a series of brief interludes.

Tablet found at Bo’ness (ca. AD 142) depicting Roman Cavalryman trampling Picts.

According to the Roman historian Tacitus, the Caledonians attacked Roman forts and skirmished with their Legions. In a surprise night-attack, the Caledonians very nearly wiped out the whole 9th Legion until it was saved by General Gnaeus Julius Agricola‘s Cavalry.

The Romans erected Hadrian’s Wall to control tribes on both sides of the wall so the Limes Britannicus became the northern border of the Roman Empire. Although the Roman Army held the Antonine Wall in the Central Lowlands for 2 short periods, the last during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus from 208 until 210, Rome would never control the land known today as Scotland.

Thanks for taking the tour with us today. We hope you’re inspired to take further adventures within the Roman Empire.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!