The discovery

June 16, 2004 — Excavation director, Nick Card, examines the geophysics scan results during the initial excavations on the Ness of Brodgar. (Sigurd Towrie)
June 16, 2004 — Excavation director, Nick Card, examines the geophysics scan results during the initial excavations on the Ness of Brodgar. (Sigurd Towrie)

 

The stone that started it all! The notched stone The stone that started it all! The notched stone ploughed up in April 2003. (Sigurd Towrie)
The stone that started it all! The notched stone ploughed up in April 2003. (Sigurd Towrie)

In 2002, a geophysical survey — part of the Orkney World Heritage Site Geophysics Programme — revealed a huge complex of anomalies, “indicative of settlement”, covering an area of 2.5 hectares on the south-eastern end of the Ness.

The sheer concentration of anomalies, and the variation, astonished the archaeologists.

Then, in April 2003, a large, notched stone slab was ploughed up in a field on the south-east of the Ness, on the low ridge between the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar.

As it was thought the stone was part of a Bronze Age burial cist, and therefore there was the possibility that human remains had been disturbed, a rescue excavation was undertaken by Beverley Ballin-Smith and Gert Petersen, from the Glasgow University Research Division.

Carol Hoey and Gert Peterson reveals the corner of Structure One for the first time in millennia. (Sigurd Towrie)
Carol Hoey and Gert Petersen reveal the corner of Structure One for the first time in millennia. (Sigurd Towrie)

Their trench, however, revealed part of a large rectangular building (Structure One), similar to House Two at the nearby Barnhouse Neolithic Village.

The discovery led to a resistivity survey to try to define the extent of the built archaeology and complement the initial gradiometer survey.

The results of these two surveys confirmed that something large and complex lay under the soil, so further investigations began.

In 2004, eight test-trenches were placed across the site to examine the nature, depth and extent of the suspected archaeological deposits.

They confirmed that much of the mounded ridge is artificial, comprising structures and middens, all dating from the Neolithic.