Re. the ‘Boyne to Brodgar’  programme. I

A Series By Bernie Bell: Part I


Ring of Brodgar (F Grahame)

I saw the piece in TON which referred to the Boyne to Brodgar programme and thought I’d gather together some bits & pieces about what I see to be the Irish Connection.  This will be bitty – but – I’m very excited that the ‘Boyne to Brodgar’ programme is happening.  I’ll put some groovy pics in, so, if you find the text a bit tiresome, or too fanciful – the pics might make up for it!

1)     Pestering  an archaeologist about the Irish Connection –  sent in  October 2012


“Indeed, considering how very important the whole Bru Na Boinne ‘art’ is, why hasn’t someone pulled it all together? and I don’t just mean the Knowth carvings as well  as the Newgrange carvings, I mean to pull together all of the carvings there, and, if possible, relate them to each other.  Ideally, to then relate them to other carvings, at other sites, but that is a lot to ask for.  Though, why not?  It matters.  Those ancient people took a lot of trouble, to place that information, why is it too much trouble, for people, now, to try to pull it all together?  Because we’ve lost our sense of its importance, I suppose, and would rather spend time, effort and money on building such things as the Millennium dome.”

(Hurrah! Antonia Thomas has done just that, for the Neolithic Heart of Orkney!  See her book  ‘Art & Archaeology in Neolithic Orkney – Process, Temporality and Context’.)

2)     Not pestering an archaeologist, just having an exchange with a friend – September 2012

Brodgar Eye stone B Bell“When I first saw what they’re calling the Brodgar Eye,

I said  to Mike, it’s Maes Howe, it’s a representation, of an aerial view of Maes Howe, as a ‘negative’.  Each time I saw it, I was more convinced of this.  I was looking at a booklet by Claire O’Kelly, about Newgrange ( in Ireland).  I turned the page, and saw…….that carving.  It’s on the underside of kerbstone 18 at Newgrange.  To me, it’s a representation, of the same thing, as the ‘Brodgar Eye’ carving.  So, to me, here is a carving, on the underside of a kerbstone at Newgrange, which looks awful like the ‘Brodgar Eye’ which was only found, a couple of years ago, at the Ness of Brodgar.  To me, a direct link, through the carvings, between Newgrange and Maes Howe.  Both, aerial views.  The ‘Eye in the Sky’?

Mike also pointed out, that Newgrange is the ‘flip-side’ of Maes Howe, as in, the sun shines down the passage at Newgrange, at sunrise on the shortest day, and shines down the passage, at sunset on the shortest day, in Maes Howe. Reflecting and balancing each other,

There are a number of carvings, at Newgrange, which are there, but can’t be seen.  Zen and the art of Neolithic carving.”

Newgrange through the trees

Newgrange through the trees (B Bell)

3)   To the same friend – June 10, 2013

“Shall I give you my thoughts on Smerquoy?  Here goes……………..

Horned spirals at Knowth B Bell

Horned spirals at Knowth B Bell

As you know, when I saw the pecked design, it spoke to me, of a two-headed snake.  For the significance of a two-headed snake, you could    google    Symbolism of two-headed snake    then go to the Wikipedia entry, which gives a basic idea.  ( I know Wikipedia can be a bit crap, but, in this case, it’s got the basics).

Then, a few days ago, I read Chris Gee’s report in the Orcadian, where he mentions burnt stones, and water channels.  I thought, that’s like a what they call the Burnt Mound at Isbister.  These two thoughts, stayed in my head, but, for some reason, didn’t connect up, until this morning.  Suddenly, the two things came together, and I thought that the building at Smerquoy, may have been a House of Healing.

One of the interpretations of the burnt mound at Isbister (Tomb of the Eagles), is that it’s a house, just a house. And that the people there, used hot stones to heat the water to cook their food. I always questioned this, as, it would be very, very unhealthy to live in a house which was constantly full of steam!  It wouldn’t be a great idea, to live in a house with a whacking great tank of water in the middle, either!, but the steam would be very un-healthy indeed – bad chests, rheumatism, all sorts.

My own take on the place at Isbister, is that it was some sort of sweat lodge, where folk went, to have their illnesses sweated out of them.  Possibly, by adding herbs to the water, as well, to match the condition.  The other thing is, at the Isbister place, there aren’t spaces for beds, there are places to sit, but they’re not big enough for beds.  Space to sit alongside the water tank, to have your treatment?  Also, why on earth would folk cook like that, when they had pots and fires in their own houses?  Maybe communal cooking?  I don’t know, but I always thought that the Burnt Mound at Isbister was some kind of sweat lodge.  I think some other people think so too, now.

Anyway.  So, this morning, it came together, in my head, that the building at Smerquoy could have been a House of Healing, with the two-headed snake ( a very ancient symbol) signifying this.  They even have water channels, to drain the water away, ready for the next ‘patient’!  Maybe even so that they could replace the water with clean water, for the different treatments needed.

That’s what came to me, this morning.  A House of Healing.”

Related story: Forging Links Between Archaeologists in Orkney and Germany

To be continued………………


4 replies »

  1. I was thinking – the Bru na Boinne, is known as that – whereas the equivalent area, here, is called The Neolithic Heart of Orkney. What would be the old Orcadian, or Scots equivalent, as a name for that area? It would be quite groovy, if someone came up with a ‘proper’ name for that bowl in the hills, and associated sites, as the Irish did, for that bend in the river, and associated sites.

    By the by – when I wrote that bit about Smerquoy – I didn’t know that that shape, is known as a horned spiral. Colin Richards told me that when I wittered at him about the various forms of that particular carving which have been found at Knowth, both on kerbstones and on an interestingly shaped stone object, found within one of the structures. Yes, I’m being evasive – that’s because I have my own name for this carved object, and that name is a bit rude! You’ll have to look it up for yourself, to see why!
    I don’t know things – but I know folk who do!

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