By Bernie Bell
Skara Brae………Then and Now
In Antonia Thomas’ book, in the chapter about Skara Brae, Antonia mentions that there had been a photographic record taken of the site before the big storm of 1924. Seeing Skara Brae as it is now – all manicured – I thought how good it would be for folk to see these images from when it was first discovered. And, Antonia, being that wonderful thing, an approachable archaeologist, was good enough to send me a link to the relevant archive images.
The museum exhibition also takes us back to the early discovery of Skara Brae, and the resulting ‘finds’, including dear old Buddo, who went into retirement for a while, and then made a ’come back’ recently! It’s interesting, and refreshing, to see Skara Brae as it was when it was first revealed – I know it couldn’t have been left like that, as it would have deteriorated terribly, but, even in the mess it was in then, it looked more ‘lived in’ – had more of a link with when it was lived in, to me, than it does now. I know….it’s needed for it to be as it is – but….it’s just all so tidy – you can get some sense of the lives lived there, but – no one, apart from people in some kind of ‘Stepford Wives’ scenario, lives so tidily. Some kind of level between the earliest images, and how it is now, might be something like how it was lived in.
This got me thinking about the Ness of Brodgar, and thinking I hope it won’t be tidied up too much. One day, when the dig is complete (when might that be? – like Topsy, it just grows and grows), it might be handed over to The Powers That Be, who might insist, for example, that it was covered over to ‘protect’ it, thereby losing all the links with the surrounding area. No more standing and looking over to Hoy Hills, no more standing and looking over to Staneyhill ( I particularly like it that I can go up on the viewing platform, and look way over to Staneyhill). And….a big THING, imposed on the landscape. I wouldn’t put it past them!
We’ll have to wait and see. I suppose once the digging is done, there will have to be a plan for the site which will protect it – but……….there’s ways and ways! We’ll have trust to the good sense of all the archaeologists involved, to make sure that the place is treated right when it comes to the time to make decisions about its maintenance and conservation.
I didn’t manage to get to Jeanne Bouza Rose’ exhibition ‘Tears in Time’ at Northlight Gallery over the Easter weekend, but I gather that Jeanne explores something of this idea, too – archaeology, peeling back the layers to reveal what lies beneath, and what that tells us of the past and it’s connections with today. Another of today’s artists, channelling the inspirations of the past, and as soon as I get to see Jeanne’s new approach to painting archaeology, I’ll tell you about that, too!
Related article: Stromness Museum’s New Exhibitions: ‘Makers’ – then and now