An After-thought……On Folk Being Fear-full…..Tombs of the Isles…. Recording Things…..

by Bernie Bell - 07:19 on 07 September 2022

An After-thought...

Writing these words as a PPS to my write-up of ‘After Orcadia’  http://www.spanglefish.com/berniesblog/blog.asp?blogid=15888 ……

“It’s not ‘at the close’ and not round a fire, but the words….

‘A feast at the close

Food shared around the fires

An enduring bond’

...took me to The Digger’s Rest at the Ness.  I’ve never sat there – I’m not a digger – but I’ve seen them - talking, eating their lunch – connecting up, maybe making connections which will last for years. https://theorkneynews.scot/2020/08/22/ness-of-brodgar-photo-time-line-part-three/

It’s all human behaviour – what used to happen at the Ness – still happens at the Ness…. https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/07/17/what-used-to-happen-at-the-ness-is-still-happening-at-the-ness/

…..reminded me of a poem by Jeanne Bouza-Rose in which she refers to the Neolithic carved stone balls being passed from hand to hand…..  https://theorkneynews.scot/2022/05/28/sphere/



On Folk Being Fear-full……

I read this….https://uk.knews.media/news/medieval-vampire-unearthed-with-sickle-across-her-throat/ and was thinking, yet again, of how very fear-full people are.  I’ve previously written of this, and of how fear-full her persecutors must have been to feel the need to weigh Lilias Adie down with a massive stone…  https://theorkneynews.scot/2019/10/04/when-people-put-people-outside-the-pale-outside-society/

It’s a line of thought which is of interest to me – why do people have these fears, and why do they let their fears prompt them to treat others, whether dead or alive, in these questionable ways?


So, leading on from the woman buried with a sickle to her throat I looked up a couple of items about this kind of approach to certain dead folk…



Here in Orkney, right by Skaill House…..  https://theorkneynews.scot/2017/07/06/bernie-bell-skaill-bay-sandwick/ a Christian ( I think early Christian?) burial ground was discovered which, presumably, goes under the house as well.  This included a burial where the skull has a stone either side of the head, and one on the forehead. 

I wonder if maybe this was to do with some idea of the skull being the seat of the mind and that the stones were to kind-of ‘keep him in’ - so that this person wouldn’t be roaming after death?  If it was an early Christian burial, there was still a lot of over-lap with the old ways.  Could it even be that they believed that certain kinds of stone would be better at ‘keeping the spirit in’ than others?

On a more trivial level – I’m reminded of ‘Tomb Raider’ –  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomb_Raider_(film)  where the legend is of an immortal witch queen who was entombed ‘for eternity’ as she had the ability to bring death by her touch.  It turns out not to be so – it turns out that she was the carrier of a plague and allowed herself to be sacrificed to save her people and, in fact, the world.

This film can’t be said to be great art or whatever, but it is entertaining – when Lara opens the tomb – that’s spectacular.  I initially watched it as something easy to watch, then became a bit uneasy about the links with the situation today where we are living with a disease which spreads so easily and which can, and has, caused so much death and destruction.

Entombed for eternity – there’s another line of thought.  In ‘Underland’  Robert MacFarlane discusses some of the things which emerge from ice, or which might emerge in the future, such as Camp Century https://www.wired.com/story/the-top-secret-cold-war-project-that-pulled-climate-science-from-the-ice/

Sometimes things are purposely buried deep and those who place them think they will be ‘preserved for eternity’. What a short-term view. Do they not look at the history of the earth?  How sea-bed becomes mountain, jungle becomes desert, mountain becomes valley or sea-bed?   People do play fast and loose with the concept of ‘eternity’ – and our place in it.


Tombs of the Isles Project…… https://twitter.com/UHIArchaeology/status/1566863585548042241?cxt=HHwWgoCwwaSIz74rAAAA

Rousay….. https://theorkneynews.scot/2017/05/18/bernie-bell-orkney-walks-with-stories-rousay/

More to follow……


Recording Things…..

This is a very thorough look at how the Cochno Stone has been recorded - or not…. https://theurbanprehistorian.wordpress.com/2022/09/05/the-history-of-prehistory/

Kenny Brophy also makes a sound point about how significant archaeology was not, and maybe still is not, being recorded as fully and carefully as it could be, should be.

In the written records of the first excavations at Skara Brae there is a line which makes me wince….. "Traill noted that Watt had 'entirely cleared out the rubbish from four houses.”

The archaeology digs of today record every little thing – and I mean every little thing….. https://theorkneynews.scot/2019/07/29/jo-mckenzies-layers-of-colour/ . Back then, what did that ‘rubbish‘ contain and what might it have told us if it had been recorded?  We’ll never know – unless someone finds the ‘rubbish’ – it must have been dumped somewhere relatively near to the dig – there’s a thought.  https://canmore.org.uk/site/1663/skara-brae?display=collection&GROUPCATEGORY=5&ORDER_BY=COLLECTIONYEARSTART


Here’s one I made earlier……. https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/04/16/of-ponds-otters-planets/


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