IT is a two-bedroom house in a tranquil spot with uninterrupted views across a sea loch, but when word got around that the property at Stenness in Orkney was being put up for sale, prospective buyers’ interest centred on the garden.
The house at Lochview sits alongside the main trench of the excavations at the Ness of Brodgar, an internationally renowned Neolithic complex, where archaeologists have uncovered a unique trove of 5,000 year old treasures.
Experts believe that the ancient structures of the settlement run under the house, which was built in the 1950s, and extend across much of the garden.
Now the site’s future has been safeguarded after an anonymous benefactor, with a strong interest in the excavations, became aware of the impending sale and realised that it was a unique opportunity to secure the future exploration of the site.
The house has now been acquired for an undisclosed sum and gifted to Orkney Heritage Society on behalf of the island community.
Leslie Burgher, the society chairman, said: “This is an extraordinarily generous donation to the people of Orkney and we are pleased to have been asked to look after it on their behalf.”
The house will be used initially by the excavation team but in the long-term may have to be demolished to access parts of the site.
Nick Card, from the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology who is director of the site excavation, added: “This is an amazing gift not just to the people of Orkney but also to the thousands of visitors to the site from every corner of the globe.”
The Ness of Brodgar is a thin strip of land, in the west mainland of Orkney, separating the Harray and Stenness lochs.
The concentration of monuments in the area demonstrates the importance it had within the ceremonies of the Neolithic people of Orkney. The area is ideally suited for the construction of ceremonial monuments – a huge natural “cauldron” formed by the hills of the surrounding countryside and bordered by hills, water and sky.
The Ring of Brodgar and Stones of Stenness form part of Orkney’s World Heritage Site – christened the Heart of Neolithic Orkney – which also includes Skara Brae, the Maeshowe chambered tomb, the Watch Stone and the Barnhouse Stone.
The monuments, dating from 3000-2000BC, are regarded as outstanding examples of the cultural achievements of Neolithic people of northern Europe.
In 2002, excavations revealed a large complex of Neolithic buildings, artwork, pottery, bones and stone tools.
Then, in 2008, archaeologists unearthed a Neolithic “cathedral” – a massive building of a kind never before seen in Britain – which experts said was a “find of a lifetime” due to its scale and workmanship.
Measuring 25m (82ft) long and 20m (65ft) wide, with 5m thick outer walls, the building stands between the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness.
Radiocarbon work has shown that part of the prehistoric complex was in use for around 1,000 years from at least 3200BC to 2300BC.
Last year, archaeologists found proof that paint was used to decorate the buildings.