Skara Brae is one of the best preserved Neolithic settlements anywhere in Western Europe. It is located on the Orkney Islands, which lie off the north east tip of Scotland.
The site, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is older than the pyramids and Stonehenge. It was built and occupied between about 3180 BC and 2500 BC.
The site was first unearthed in 1850, after a storm exposed some of the ruins. However, it was wasn’t thoroughly excavated until the 1920s when another storm demolished one of the houses.
Hundreds of artifacts have been excavated at Skara Brae, including knives, rope, small bowls, ivory pins and decorative beads. Red dye found there indicates that body painting may have been common.
The houses at Skara Brae use a sophisticated drainage system and even had their own toilets. The homes also had beds, chairs, dressers and cupboards, although no windows.
The settlement may have been abandoned suddenly, perhaps because of a storm. Archaeologists have found the remains of the inhabitants’ last meals, often prime meat dishes.
The people who lived in the settlement raised cattle and sheep, and also ate a lot of seafood in their diet.
Some archaeologists also believe that the inhabitants were skilled astronomers.
The monuments in Skara Brae were aligned to the sunrise and sunset, meaning that the sun and the moon were probably important.
It’s believed that the inhabitants may have worshipped a spirit of the sea.
A special stone was unveiled in Skara Brae in April, 2008. It commemorated the anniversary of the first man to orbit the earth, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961.
There are several other prehistoric sites on the Orkney Islands, which are similar to Skara Brae. The buildings at Knap of Howar are believed to be the oldest preserved standing buildings in Northern Europe.