Monday, February 22, 2016

Orkney Woman in the Foreshore (Lorena Innes)

More Sea Urchins.  This is a news report from Past Horizons: "Cist in the Foreshore"

This is Early or Middle Bronze Age burial has a wide wiggle range, but it was probably an EBA burial.  The full archaeology report can be found here "ARO19: The Cist on the Foreshore at Lopness, Sanday, Orkney" by Lorna Innes  (search AR019)
Woman from Lopness on Sanday
The westward facing woman was a middle aged and had worked hard her whole life with some osteoarthritis in later years.  Her bones indicate some repetitive activity, so it's thought maybe mending fishing nets or textile work. 

Although there is no diagnostic pottery, there is in addition to sea urchins, lobster, fish bones, and two baby lambs. The radiocarbon date, taking other variables into account, is 1890 - 1520 B.C.  The grave roof appears to have collapsed, possibly during the lifetimes of those who buried her, and it was again filled through the crack with more offerings (if I am reading this correctly).

It sounds as if the burial was covered with a large mound of dirt from the inland.   Apparently this had nondescript pottery fragments and knapping debitage.  

You have to wonder if there was a special desire by the deceased to be buried by the sea just as someone might request today..?

What's remarkable about modern Orkney is that R1b and R1a constitute about 93% of male lineages.  If you assume that the large portion of R1a comes from Northmen, the highest percentage in the Isles, then must certainly accept that the majority, if not the totality of the 8% haplogroup I did as well. 

After removing that, what are we left with?  What components of Orkney or Shetland could represent the male posterity of the Neolithic?  It's may sound ludicrous, but it's looking like 0%.

The only other scenario that's halfway plausible is that the Orkney grooved ware tradition was in fact Western Iberian in origin and the island was overwhelming R1b prior to the Beaker advance.  If this was the case, then the R1b-ization of the Isles could have begun several hundred years before the Beaker times with the Grooved Tradition.  I don't lean this direction, just saying it's remotely plausible.

See the paper, lot of interesting thingsMore on the Neolithic excavations, see:

Orkney Jar


  1. Is there any place in the Orkneys that isn't near or dependent upon the sea? IIRC they are pretty small.

    1. I guess you are referring to the choice of being buried by the sea? Sanday is sandy but fertile in the interior. I'm sure the water level has risen some, but I don't know how it would have affected the distance to the water in this burial.