Salutations from Ness of Brodgar
Today is the 31st of December, 2018 and I am heralding in the new year of 2019 with a query. In church yesterday, the speaker gave his message and it was from Colossians, elaborating on Chapter 4, verse 2: “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.” Verse 5:”Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” Verse 6: “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” A good message and material for a resolution. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I am a failure at keeping them, such is the Law and man’s bent for sinning. I will summarize in my always and ever present satirical advice to all of you readers. To be thankful in all things and to pray unceasingly! This advice and my motto of “For God and Country, Duty and Honor” pretty much defines me.
I assume you are looking in askance at my title. Recently I was doing research about Neolithic man and his use of deer antlers as tools, jewelry and weapons. I somehow arrived at the archaeological dig of The Ness of Brodgar in the Orkney Islands between Scotland and Norway. I had knowledge of the Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae. In fact I have written a previous blog post about it (see Skara Brae and poem: thomasgmoore.com
The Ness of Brodgar excavation grabbed my attention because it was discovered recently in 2003 and has been under continuous excavation since. What is special about it you ask? Its age! This Neolithic village or Scottish clachan predates the familiar civilizations we recognize such as Egyptian, Sumerian, Mycenaean, Assyrian and Minoans. We are looking at a people who were building in stone with an eye for geometry and artistic aplomb some 6000 years ago. Yes! Before the pyramids, before Stonehenge, before the Sumerians wrote their first cuneiform script.
This made me sit up and take notice, an advanced culture, other than the classical ones, in the far west and in the northern latitudes. Just imagine the Ice Sheets are retreating, which occurred in the Paleolithic Era, then we enter into the Mesolithic Era of hunters and gatherers and then man developed farming and enters into the Neolithic Era of crops and domesticated animals. This is before the Bronze Age when Great Briton, Scotland and these Orkney Isles were connected to Europe by land bridges. It had to have been a warmer and more favorable climate than today. A complex society situated on an isolated peninsular bordered on one side by fresh water and the other side a bay or loch of salt water. The complex was surrounded by a 13 foot wall, the houses roofed with slate long before Roman tiles were baked.
I can only imagine what lies below these ruins for they were built on former ruins that haven’t been excavated as yet. They built a huge building that wasn’t for communal occupation but for ritualistic ceremonies so they worshiped their deity or deities in grandeur as evidence by the sacrificial bones of oxen and sheep. They had avenues for processions from the neighboring megalithic stone rings (circles) such as The Standing Stones of Stennes, The Stone Rings of Brodgar and the Ring of Bookan. Nearby were the Chambered Stone Cairns of Maeshowes and Unstan and northwest on a paved avenue, was Skara Brae, whose occupants could walk to worship and return home in a single day. Can we imagine what lies below these ruins or under the sea that the rising oceans have covered?
In my mind’s eye I can see a man, an Orcadian, as we think he was called, neither Scottish Pict nor Norwegian Viking. He may have had the blue eyes of a Norseman or the red hair of a Scotsman. He was clothed in fur and animal skin with a keen eye, surveying the horizon. Standing beside his skin boat with his antlered harpoon, in his belt a knapped flint knife and in his waist band an ax of stone or antler. He knew his world because he was successful. He was smart because he knew the seasons (winter and summer solstices) as noted by the Standing Stones. He knew a lot of geometry as witness by the stone cairns that allowed the sun to reach the farthest niche on the longest day of the year. He had domesticated sheep, oxen and pigs. We have evidence of barley planting (for beer probably, we know they made mead from honey. The buildings even had rustic toilets so they were conscious of sanitation. The quintessential man, knowing the migrations of whales and seals and the seasonal fish harvest. He was a man confident and wise. Did he make a resolution on the first day after the winter solstice? Probably not but he had responsibility just as we do now, to be a provider and protector of those entrusted to him, possibly a wife and children and maybe an ageing elder, all under his keep, his responsibility, they had to be or they died. Like King Solomon said; “Nothing ever changes really, all is vanity, what was and was before, will be again” He probably worshiped his god or gods as astutely as we worship ours. I am sure he prayed unceasingly to his God to aid him in his endeavors and to keep those in his care safe from harm.
What happened to these people? We don’t know, we can only speculate. Was there warring or a sudden
catastrophic event as witnessed by a string of beads that were found in and out of a doorway hastily lost as the woman ran from her home. There is no evidence of plague and mass burials. Could it have been gradual as in climate change as noted in the Mayan droughts? There is a hypothesis that it could have been the eruption of the Icelandic Volcano, Hekla, in 2200 BCE. With time and more excavations we may learn their fate. These islands today are windswept with storm shores and dunes and sparsely inhabited. A mystery!
We now know that America was settled from both directions, coming across the Beringia land bridge and by the Silurian’s in skin boats skirting the ice by way of Iceland and Greenland coming to the Americas from Europe. Are these people our Algonquin or Cherokee tribes?
You may laugh but I am always hypothesizing about the possibilities. For years I thought Akhenaten of Egypt was the Biblical Moses but now it may have been his brother and the founding of the Jewish culture. You never know, look at the timeline. For years I thought the Island of Santorini in the Mediterranean was Atlantis but now I have arrived at the conclusion it may be Sardinia because of Sardinia’s round fortifications but Santorini and the canals and a massive volcanic eruption still hold water. The Pillars of Hercules may be the actual ones at Gibraltar and Ness of Brodgar the watery canal-ed islands of The Orkney Isles and the Orcadians the masters of Atlantis. What we know is this, the culture disappeared around 2200 BCE. Why and where did they go?