Barnhouse settlement - Stenness
On the shore of Harray Loch, near the Standing Stones of Stenness, is the recently-excavated site of Barnhouse (HY308127). Ruins of at least 15 Neolithic houses were revealed. Unlike at Skara Brae, the houses appear to have been free-standing. Each house had a central hearth and beds were either set into or against the walls. Evidence for stone dressers like those at Skara Brae was also found.
Two of the buildings were larger than the rest, the largest one having a room 7m square and walls 3m thick, as well as a large central hearth. The entrance of this one faces towards the north west and at midsummer the setting sun shines down the rather grand passage. This building is similar in design to some of the chambered cairns, and it has been suggested that it may have been a meeting-hall used in conjunction with ceremonies at the Standing Stones rather than a dwelling house.
Grooved Ware pottery similar to that found at the nearby Standing Stones and Skara Brae was found here. Many flint and other stone artefacts were also found and even a piece of pitchstone thought to have come from Arran. It has been suggested that the houses may have been demolished rather than simply to have fallen down as only the basal courses remained of the buildings. It seems equally likely that farming activities, particularly modern ploughing, could have removed the rest of the buildings.
Unlike other recently excavated sites, Barnhouse has been preserved and opened to the public. The site is reached by a footpath from near the Standing Stones. Hopefully other interesting sites such as this will be left so that the public - who fund such excavations - may have the benefit of seeing them in future. The site appears to have an orientation towards midsummer saunset, as on the longest day the sun shines directly down the entrance passage of one of the smaller structures, but no of the large, Maeshowe-sized building.