I've just been chatting to one of the archaeologists, Richard Strachan, involved in the discovery of the Orkney 'venus', which was reported widely earlier in the week. He was telling me all about the find of this first Neolithic human representation from Scotland, and it's an interesting story.
The little figure seems to fit into an artistic style evidenced elsewhere in Neolithic Orkney in that its heavy eyebrow motif shadows that found on a lintel in a chambered tomb nearby. It'll be fascinating to see what theories prehistorians come up with to explain the link.
The site where it's been found, the Links of Noltland, on the Island of Westray, is similar to the much more famous Neolithic village of Skara Brae, also in Orkney, in that it seems to be a series of houses built into and surrounded by heaps of midden (rubbish). The existence of a prehistoric settlement at Noltland has been known for over a century but excavation is going on now because it's in danger of being exposed and destroyed by the wind whipping the sand that covers it away.
The finding of this little human figurine has cast the place into the spotlight and one wonders what will happen to it now. The Links of Noltland has been designated a scheduled monument and is also a property in the care of Historic Scotland, so it's being carefully managed to protect it in the best way possible. The public is allowed to visit, but there isn't much to see as most of the archaeology is buried.
It would cost a lot of money to protect and preserve the place and turn it into a heritage attraction like Skara Brae, but perhaps it would pay for itself in entry fees and general tourist revenues after a while (a long while)? With budgets credit crunched everywhere, who would stump up the cash though?
Alternatively it could be excavated to destruction, with the only record to survive being the written record of what was found there. Or should it be covered over and sandbagged in the hope that the elements could be kept at bay? It seems like there's a lot more to come out of the site - even now the team are exploring a very curious line of inverted cow's skulls that appear to have been deliberately placed in a wall cavity of one of the buildings.
It's the sort of place that people would visit, particularly as there are so many more prehistoric delights around about there, but I wonder if that will ever become a reality. What do you think?
Read more about prehistoric Orkney here