Giant Aurochs Discovered in Orkney

Heritage, History

A giant aurochs skeleton has been discovered at the Ness of Brodgar archaeology site in Orkney, providing a greater insight and understanding of the agriculture of neolithic Orkney and the range of animals present at that time.

The huge cattle with sweeping horns which once roamed the forests of Europe have not been seen for nearly 400 years. Aurochs are the prehistoric ancestor to the modern day cow, the last one is reported to have died in Poland in 1627. Compared to a modern day cow they are massive. The weight of modern cattle ranges from 600lb to 2425lb. It is estimated that an aurochs could with up to 3300lb – nearly three times the weight of an average cow. Aurochs could stand 6.5 feet at the shoulder.

Drawings of aurochs are depicted in ochre and charcoal on the walls of caves in Lascaux in France.

Drawings of aurochs are depicted in ochre and charcoal on the walls of caves in Lascaux in France.

So far at Ness of Brodgar, the animal’s massive horn core has been revealed, along with part of the skull. The discovery of the aurochs remains are just one of many exciting discoveries made at the Ness of Brodgar. The archaeological excavation, which has so far only unearthed around 10 per cent of the original site, has yielded thousands of incredible artifacts including ceremonial mace heads, polished stone axes, flint knives, a human figurine, miniature thumb pots, beautifully crafted stone spatulas, highly-refined coloured pottery, and more than 650 pieces of Neolithic art, by far the largest collection ever found in Britain.  Earlier this year, archaeologists uncovered the 5,000-year-old remains of a sophisticated temple complex.

Ness of Brodgar archaeology team - 2014

Ness of Brodgar archaeology team – 2014

Professor Scott Pile from the Willamette University of Oregon has joined the dig, over the last four years, with a team of students from the USA as part of Willamette’s archaeology field school program.

Professor Scott Pile from the Willamette University of Oregon at the Ness of Brodgar archaeology site.

Professor Scott Pile from the Willamette University of Oregon at the Ness of Brodgar archaeology site.

Links:
Ness of Brodgar – Dig Diary
National Geographic – Neolithic Orkney
Archaeology Institute – Highlands and Islands University

Featured image: An aurochs skeleton found in Denmark dated to about 7500 BC. Source: Malene Thyssen, Wikimedia Commons


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