BRONZE AGE NOLTLAND

The Bronze Age (BA) remains at Noltland comprise one of the most important elements of the site. They have formed a key focus for work over the last four years. The picture above shows Structures 5 and 6, two of the Bronze Age buildings which were excavated during 2007.

Some ten BA buildings have now been located within this eroding landscape, all of which are thought to date to the second millenium BC. Together, they form the largest settlement of this date ever found in Orkney and one of the very few sites of this date to be excvated here. Noltland is one of only a half a dozen or so projects ever to recover settlement remains of this date in Orkney. They are a vital source of evidence for any attempt to reconstruct BA society in the Northern Isles.

The BA buildings are very different to the Neolithic ones excavated on site. Some of them are very much bigger, and there is some evidence that animals were being brought into the living space, perhaps at night or during winter.

There are at least four instances where the buildings have been laid out as a pair. In each case there is a larger one located to the north of a smaller. The entrances face each other accross a paved passgeway. The smaller buildings seem to have a specialised function, three contained a large tank or pit sunk into the floor just inside the entrance. One of these pits yielded an amazing array of 70 or so stone tools from within the clay lining.

The finds assemblage changes markedly when we reach the Bronze Age at Noltland. Very little pottery, for example, has been recovered but instead we find fragments of soapstone vessels (soapstone is a very soft stone which is easily carved). The nearest source for the soapstone is Shetland. The worked stone assemblage also changes and there is next to no flint.

The cemetery was located close to the houses, presumably serving the occupants. The cemetery comprised a mix of cremations and inhumations and seems to have included indiviuals of all ages and sexes, including the very young. Grave goods were very rare and generally consisted of no more than a scrap of pottery. Interestingly, it was noticeable during excavation that the grave goods seemed to be associated more with children than with adults. It is not possible to say yet exactly how many individuals are represented . The count is presently at around fifty, however, many of the cremations can be shown to include more than one individual. Specialist work is currently underway on the assemblage.