Structures Thirty-Six and Twenty

The third part of a series looking at the lesser-known buildings at the Ness of Brodgar excavation site.

The earliest phase of activity so far uncovered in Trench P, showing the location of Structures Thirty-Six and Twenty.

The earliest phase of activity so far uncovered in Trench P, showing the location of Structures Thirty-Six and Twenty.

Structure Thirty-Six

Structure Thirty-Six in relation to its successor, Structure Fourteen.

Structure Thirty-Six (red) in relation to its successor, Structure Fourteen.

When Structure Fourteen was constructed in the northern corner of Trench P, it was placed exactly over the top of the dismantled remains of its predecessor, Structure Thirty-Six.

Because it was razed to its foundations, the exact form and size of Thirty-Six is not known for sure, but it sat on the same alignment as Fourteen. Features from the older building also seemed to match up with the recesses of its replacement, suggesting Structure Fourteen was a rebuild that maintained the footprint of Structure Thirty-Six.

The repeated re-use of house sites is a common narrative at Neolithic settlements. This act of reconstruction, perhaps re-using materials from the earlier buildings, seems to represent the maintenance of a physical link to the past.

Structure Twenty

Structure Ten, built c2900BC, overlying the suspected remains of Structure Twenty (red).

Structure Ten, built c2900BC, overlying the suspected remains of Structure Twenty (red).

Beneath Structure Ten are a number of architectural elements that may represent the earliest buildings encountered in Trench P so far.

One of these early buildings is Structure Twenty and can be seen under Ten’s entrance and forecourt. The visible elements suggest Structure Twenty was subdivided by orthostatic slabs rather than stone piers. This architecture, which is also found in Structure Five, suggests an early date, perhaps around 3300BC.

This places the construction of Structure Twenty around a century before the other piered structures in Trench P.

There, however, little that can be said about Structure Twenty with any certainty. We do not know its size or layout but do know that Structure Ten was built directly on top of a section because its eastern wall undulates as it passes over the top of its predecessor.

But there are many questions. Other elements inside Structure Ten are almost completely obscured by the later construction but may indicate there was at least one other building underneath the remains of Structure Ten.

The entrance area of Structure Ten, with the earlier Structure Twenty highlighted. (Sigurd Towrie)

The entrance area of Structure Ten, with the earlier Structure Twenty highlighted. (Sigurd Towrie)

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