Orkney is my most favourite place in the world. Haven’t been to the Knap of Howar yet, but it’s on the list.
Much of a recent windy week in Orkney was spent crawling on all fours through the low, extruded passages of Neolithic buildings. The abundance and integrity of structures dating to around 3,500 BC is mind boggling. However, sitting on a five thousand year old bench sheltering from the wind inside the Knap of Howar, I found myself idly wondering how I would arrange things if this were my house. The features of everyday life are easy to recognise in the hearth, work bench, bed box, partitions, even the Stone Age built-in storage wall. On the remote island of Papa Westray, the visitor is free to explore, occupy, experience and imagine unsupervised, unencumbered by interpretation boards and visitor centres, happening across ancient sites almost inadvertently whilst walking on the beach.
The exposure, repair and presentation of these ancient buildings is emphatically archaeological rather than sociological or architectural. ‘Waste’ has been cut…
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