How the lost city of Skara Brae was discovered

Edduin Carvajal
May 21, 2018
01:20 P.M.

The Neolithic village of Skara Brae, considered by many as one of the most remarkable prehistoric monuments in Europe, was discovered ‘by chance.’


Skara Brae is located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Mainland, the largest island in the Orkney archipelago of Scotland. Even though it is very popular nowadays, it used to be unknown up until the winter of 1850.

According to Orkneyjar.com, a strong storm hit the archipelago that year. The combination of wind and an unusually high rising of the sea level stripped the grass from an area that was known as Skerrabra.

When the storm stopped, several stone buildings ‘appeared’ out of nowhere, a fact that captured the attention of the local laird, William Watt of Skaill.

He and a group of people started excavating the site and much to their surprise, they discovered the remains of four ancient houses. 18 years later, they stopped investigating the area and the city was abandoned.


Nevertheless, another strong storm hit the area in 1925, damaging some of the structures that had been discovered. At that point, it was decided that a sea-wall had to be constructed as a way to preserve the remains.


During the construction work, many more buildings were discovered and in 1930 the entire city of Skara Brae was released for its ‘protective cocoon.’

Studies carried away in the past suggested that the village was created during the Iron Age around 500BC.


However, in the early ‘70s, a radiocarbon dating study confirmed that the city was built during the late Neolithic and that it was inhabited for around 600 years between 3,200BC and 2,200BC.

Nowadays, the city of Skara Brae has eight houses with the same simple design: a large square room, with a central fireplace, a bed on either side and a shelved dresser on the wall opposite the doorway.

Even though the city has remained almost intact for thousands of year, it is under constant threat by coastal erosion. The website pointed out that steps are being taken to minimize the damage.

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