Pitchstone flake brings Ness total to 47

The latest pitchstone flake beside a 5p piece for scale. (Paul Clark)
The latest pitchstone flake beside a 5p piece for scale. (📷 Paul Clark)

A flake of Arran pitchstone from the analysis of environmental samples from Structure Eight has brought the total from the Ness to 47.

The pitchstone fragment. (Paul Clark)
The pitchstone fragment. (📷 Paul Clark)

Pitchstone is a volcanic glass, similar to obsidian, and its nearest source is the isle of Arran, off the south-west coast of Scotland. In Orkney, it has only been found at the Ness of Brodgar excavation site and the Barnhouse settlement, 400 metres to the east.

The latest fragment, found by ORCA‘s Travis Lowe, adds to the Ness pitchstone assemblage – the largest found in Orkney to date. The Barnhouse settlement yielded 26 pieces.

A study by Dr Hugo Anderson Whymark, of the National Museums Scotland, suggested the Ness pitchstone may have been brought to Orkney by visitors, who used it to create tools in Structure Eight.

A lithics expert, Hugo noted that the blade reduction employed with the pitchstone was not characteristic of Late Neolithic flintworking in Orkney and that the raw material was brought by someone with the knowledge to work it.

Travis’ previous discovery of pitchstone micro debitage – tiny fragments that are created as a by-product of knapping – in 2020 confirmed that pitchstone was being knapped on site.

The pitchstone flake. (Paul Clark)
The pitchstone flake. (📷 Paul Clark)

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