Culture

Stone-Age-Ice-Houses?

By Bernie Bell

I’ve previously mentioned the work of Mark Cooper…….. https://theorkneynews.scot/2021/08/26/more-about-boats-brodgar/ , and Mark keeps on coming up with new ideas.  He recently emailed me and presented this one……

“Idea:  What if the Neolithic Farmers of Orkney had Ice Houses.   For storing meat packed in snow/ice, between layers of straw?

Maybe one or more structures at the Ness were Ice Houses, to store meat from a slaughter house.  And a tannery building as well.

Ness = Import/Export Leather-Cattle-Grain Trans-shipment Center.”

Ice houses – there’s a thought – why not? They have been used for a long time, in a lot of places.

Mark’s  ice house idea reminded me of this poem……

The Icehouse in Summer

By Howard Nemerov

see Amos, 3:15A door sunk in a hillside, with a bolt
thick as the boy’s arm, and behind that door
the walls of ice, melting a blue, faint light,
an air of cedar branches, sawdust, fern:
decaying seasons keeping from decay.

A summer guest, the boy had never seen
(a servant told him of it) how the lake
froze three foot thick, how farmers came with teams,
with axe and saw, to cut great blocks of ice,
translucid, marbled, glittering in the sun,
load them on sleds and drag them up the hill
to be manhandled down the narrow path
and set in courses for the summer’s keeping,
the kitchen uses and luxuriousness
of the great houses. And he heard how once
a team and driver drowned in the break of spring:
the man’s cry melting from the ice that summer
frightened the sherbet-eaters off the terrace.

Dust of the cedar, lost and evergreen
among the slowly blunting water walls
where the blade edge melted and the steel saw’s bite
was rounded out, and the horse and rider drowned
in the red sea’s blood, I was the silly child
who dreamed that riderless cry, and saw the guests
run from a ghostly wall, so long before
the winter house fell with the summer house,
and the houses, Egypt, the great houses, had an end.

Howard Nemerov, “The Icehouse in Summer” from The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1977). Copyright © 1977 by Howard Nemerov. Reprinted with the permission of Margaret Nemerov.Source: The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (The University of Chicago Press, 1977)

As when archaeologists discover/uncover things, and release the memories……

Since the archaeologists really got going on excavating what is referred to as Trench T at the Ness of Brodgar https://www.nessofbrodgar.co.uk/  the structures being revealed there have presented them with a puzzle, but my first response – as a non-archaeologist – was that it was a manufacturing area – keeping the smells outside the main enclosure! 

And I wrote this……

It’s not just the objects and structures which were made to impress or elucidate – it’s the practicalities too – storage – ice houses.  Maybe?

Trench T – The Trench of Mystery!

2 replies »

  1. And Mark says……

    “Inside a roofed Building at the Ness:

    Stack leather sacks of grain above a layer of packed snow/ice covered with straw. To reduce mold, insect, and rodent damage.

    Bottom sacks may freeze. But seed grain in upper sacks will remain viable.

    A freezer/refrigerator with the freezer compartment down below.”

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