Focus on finds – worked bone

Two large worked bones from the Ness. Top: Structure Ten. Bottom: Trench X. (Sigurd Towrie)

Two large worked bones from the Ness. Top: Structure Ten. Bottom: Trench X. (Sigurd Towrie)

Worked bone is something of a rarity at the Ness. Not because people were not making things from bone but because the acidic soil means these objects rarely survive.

A tiny, but beautiful, featuring incised decoration on the shaft. (Sigurd Towrie)

A tiny, but beautiful, 1cm long worked bone fragment featuring delicate incised decoration on the shaft. Although we don’t have a date for this piece, it is not Neolithic but much later. (Sigurd Towrie)

If conditions were a little more alkaline we might still have the range and number of bone artefacts recovered at other Neolithic sites in Orkney, such as Skara Brae and the Links of Noltland.

At the Ness of Brodgar bone preservation can range from not-very-good condition to mush with the consistency of cottage cheese.

Fortunately, there are pockets of soil and midden that are clearly not so acidic and it is from these that we have recovered the few examples of worked bone shown here.

Suspected bone pins from Structure Eight (top), Structure Twelve/Twenty-Six (middle) and Trench J (bottom). (Sigurd Towrie)

Suspected bone pins from Structure Eight (top), Structure Twelve/Twenty-Six (middle) and Trench J (bottom). (Sigurd Towrie)

A perforated astralagus found in Trench T in 2018. Was it a bone toggle? Or, as has been suggested, a whistle? (Sigurd Towrie)

A perforated bone found in Trench T in 2018. Was it used as a toggle? Or, as has also been suggested, a whistle? (Sigurd Towrie)

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