Dig extended after ancient figurine is found in Orkney mud

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THE archaeological dig that resulted in the discovery of the earliest representation of a human face and body ever found in Scotland is to be extended in the hope of unearthing more significant treasures.

Last month, archaeologists working on excavations at the Links of Noltland – one of Orkney's richest ancient sites – found a tiny sandstone figurine buried in the mud. The face and its lozenge-shaped body, measuring just 3.5 x 3cm, had been carved on Westray between 4,500 and 5,000 years ago.

The excavations had been due to be wound up for the season at the end of this week. But Historic Scotland yesterday announced that, following the discovery of the figurine, it had been decided to extend this year's excavations until the end of the month.

And it was also revealed that at least one other potentially significant discovery has already been made – a line of cattle skulls found embedded in the remains of a wall of a Neolithic farmhouse.

The skulls, set upside down with their horns stuck into the ground, appear to have been placed there as part of the wall's construction.

Richard Strachan, the senior archaeologist with the Historic Scotland's cultural resources team, said the area chosen for the dig was thought to contain only one building, a farmhouse, but three more buildings had been found.

One of the newly discovered buildings had contained the line of ten skulls, arranged in what appeared to be a ritualistic way, deliberately deposited within its walls with their horns embedded in the ground.

Mr Strachan continued: "The site has turned out to be far larger than we thought, so we have decided to extend this year's dig for three weeks, to the end of September."

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