7th Experimental Archaeology Conference Poster Abstract – Sean Rice
The Worked Bone from the Links of Noltland
Containing a rich and diverse range of archaeological remains, the Links of Noltland, a 2.5 hectare site situated on the exposed north coast of the island of Westray, represents one of the most complete early prehistoric sites yet found in Orkney. Recent excavations on a large Neolithic structural complex and associated field systems located on an elevated ridge to the south east corner of the site and a Bronze Age settlement and contemporary burials to the south west. This work has produced a wealth of artefacts, including decorated Neolithic grooved ware pottery, Bronze Age steatite vessels, flint tools and items made of stone and bone. Three small Neolithic figurines, the oldest to be found in Scotland, and an unusual building with cattle skulls placed within the wall foundations have also been discovered.
One of the key factors which make the Links of Noltland so important is the high quality of bone preservation. Since 2007, over 1,500 items of worked bone have been recovered, including mattocks, awls, points, polished pins and beads together with bone working debris. The scope offered by the extended chronology of the site and by such a complete and well preserved assemblage offers a level of interpretation rarely matched. It is hoped that detailed analysis will allow us to identify how and where bone materials were sourced, objects manufactured, used and discarded and how worked bone technology changed through the lifespan of the site. Together with the other finds from the Links of Noltland we hope to gain a more fully rounded picture of the prehistoric tool assemblage, economy, diet and environment.