50 Finds from Orkney: Objects from the Portable Antiquities Scheme
By (author) Julie Cassidy
It is said of Orkney that if you scratch the surface, it bleeds archaeology. Orkney is a county just off the north of Scotland comprising of almost seventy islands with a long and fascinating history. This volume aims to highlight fifty artefacts that are iconic artefacts from our better known sites, and bring to light some artefacts of its lesser known history, featuring artefacts from the Mesolithic period, such as flint scatter, to the modern era – a dog collar washed up from a Second World War shipwreck. The jewel in the crown of Orkneys heritage is, Skara Brae, a settlement built over 5,000 years ago. Built in stone, it remains one of the best preserved and most important Neolithic settlements in the world, and produced some fascinating artefacts. The site was given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1999 and belongs to the group of sites known as ‘the Heart of Neolithic Orkney’. Also included are Roman finds from Iron Age sites. There is no evidence that the Romans made it to Orkney, so each Roman find is an important indicator of trade and contact. The Picts left behind large carved stones, the ‘Peedie Pict’ engraved gaming piece, beads, painted pebbles and elaborate combs.From the eighth century we have the Norse arrivals, and with them some elaborate boat burials, including the one at Scar where the iconic ‘Scar Plaque’ linen smoother was discovered, among other high status grave goods. The Medieval period in Orkney is less well-known, and we have some artefacts that highlight not just the personal, like a gold finger ring and seal matrix, but that illustrate Orkneys political and religious importance following its annexing to Scotland in 1468.
Julie Cassidy graduated from the University of Reading with an archaeology degree in 2001, and a Masters degree in Artefact Studies from University College London in 2004. Working as Finds Manager on many archaeological sites around the world, she was the Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Northamptonshire for 8 years, before starting work as Archaeology Collections Assistant for Orkney Museums in 2016.