Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney Process, Temporality and Context
by Antonia Thomas. xvi+258 pages; illustrated throughout in colour and black & white. 272 2016 University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute Research Series 1
. Available both in printed and e-versions.
Printed ISBN 9781784914332. £45.00 (No VAT). Epublication ISBN 9781784914349. £15.83 (Exc. VAT) Institutional Price £45.00 (Exc. UK VAT)
The Neolithic sites of Orkney include an impressive number of stone-built tombs, ceremonial monuments and – uniquely for northern Europe – contemporary dwellings. Many of these buildings survive in a remarkable state of preservation, allowing an understanding of the relationship between architectural space and the process of construction that is rarely achievable. Until recently, however, relatively little has been known about the decoration of these sites.
This book addresses that gap to offer a groundbreaking analysis of Neolithic art and architecture in Orkney. Focussing upon the incredible collection of hundreds of decorated stones being revealed by the current excavations at the Ness of Brodgar, it details the results of the author’s original fieldwork both there and at the contemporary sites of Maeshowe and Skara Brae, all within the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.
It provides the first major discussion of Orkney’s Neolithic carvings, and uses these as a springboard to challenge many of the traditional assumptions relating to Neolithic art and architecture. By foregrounding the architectural context of mark-making, this book explores how both buildings and carvings emerge though the embodied social practice of working stone, and how this relates to the wider context of life in Neolithic Orkney.
‘Art and Architecture in Neolithic Orkney is a handsome volume; it is well illustrated and clearly set out. It is designed to be read from cover to cover but in fact there is a lot of detail here and it also makes for an excellent ‘dipping’ book. The main thrust, as you might guess, is to provide an overview of the amazing suite of decorated stones found within the structures of Neolithic Orkney through detailed studies of these three key sites. Within each site, particular case studies are set out. It is a comprehensive piece of work, taking us first through a history of the archaeological study of art, and then providing a brief guide to the Neolithic art of Britain and Ireland.
…There is a lot to take in. There is a lot to think about. It is a book that will linger and enrich any exploration of the remains of Neolithic Orkney. The ‘art’ itself is just wonderful, it was clearly an integral part of the lives of our Neolithic ancestors.’ –Caroline Wickham‐Jones (The Orcadian, November 10th, 2016)
'The book offers a compelling account of a little-known aspect of the Orcadian Neolithic, and will make a significant contribution to understanding the artistic endeavour of communities that settled this island archipelago some 5,000-6,000 years ago, fusing architecture with art.' –George Nash (Current Archaeology, Issue 326, May 2017)