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15 Staggering Skara Brae Facts

Skara Brae is one of the most fascinating Neolithic sites in the world! Learn 15 fun facts all about this incredible settlement with our amazing facts page!

Beano Facts Team
Last Updated:  October 21st 2023

Skara Brae is one of the most fascinating sites in the British Isles. A neolithic village in the Orkney isles, Skara Brae is an incredible look into how people lived thousands of years ago. We've put together 15 fascinating facts all about Skara Brae to help you learn more about the site, who lived there, why it may have been abandoned, and how it was discovered. And if you liked this, we've got loads more history facts! What about these not-so-glam Gladiator Facts? Or how about 15 fun facts on the legendary Robin Hood? Or how about these astonishing Charles Darwin facts?

1. It's in the Orkney Islands

Skara Brae is located in the Orkney Islands, a group of islands off the north coast of Scotland. In fact, it's not the only neolithic site on the islands! Orkney has five other neolithic sites - Maeshowe, a burial mound, the Ring of Brodgar, a circle of standing stones, the standing stones of Stenness, and the neolithic living sites of the Ness of Brodgar and the Barnhouse settlement.

2. It's Older than the Pyramids

And Stonehenge! Yup, Skara Brae is thought to be about 5,000 years old, which is about 2,500 years older than the pyramids, and Stone henge by a few hundred years at least. People are thought to have lived in Skara Brae for about 650 years, between 3180 BCE and 2,500 BCE!

3. Skara Brae Means 'Mound'

Or at least, that's what 'brae' means. The original name of the site was 'Skerrabra', which over time became Skara Brae. Before people knew it was an ancient settlement, it was just a bit mound on the landscape, which fishermen would use to navigate. No one is quite sure exactly what it means, or what the settlers who lived there actually called Skara Brae themselves.

4. It Has a Sewer System

One of the most fascinating things about Skara Brae is how sophisticated it was. To us it might just look like a bunch of stones and walls, but the ancient inhabitants of Skara Brae were just as clever as us. They incorporated a basic sewer system into their dwellings, with each house having a drain underneath which took waste away to the sea. Orkney wouldn't get another proper sewer system again for hundreds of years after this!

5. No One Knew About it For Thousands of Years

Before it was uncovered, no one knew that Skara Brae was a neolithic settlement. In 1850, a storm damaged Skara Brae and revealed the houses underneath. Over the next century or so, excavations at the site would uncover more and more of the neolithic village which had been buried for over a thousand years. For some reason, an original village was abandoned and then rebuilt on top of the ruins.

6. It's Very Well Preserved

One of the reasons Skara Brae is so important is because its so well preserved. This is due to the fact that it was buried under the earth for thousands of years, meaning it wasn't disturbed or damaged. Some people have called it a 'Scottish Pompeii' because, like the Roman town, it was undisturbed for many centuries and perfectly preserved!

7. The Inhabitants Made Pottery

Digs at Skara Brae have unearthed lots of pottery, showing that the people who lived their were skilled craftsmen. In addition, jewellery, tools and game pieces have all been discovered too, giving us a really cool insight into how the people at Skara Brae spent their time!

8. It Has Furniture Like a Modern House

One of the reasons Skara Brae is so cool is that its houses are filled with stone furniture, which means its been preserved over the years. These include stone beds (they would probably have had a covered) and stone 'dressers' where historians think people would have displayed their possessions, just like we do today! And of course they had their stone toilets, built into the wall (must've been pretty cold!).

9. No One is Quite Sure Why it Was Abandoned

Skara Brae has taught us a lot, but in many ways its still a mystery! We don't have any evidence about why it was abandoned. Some people think the village was hit by a big storm, whilst others think it might have been abandoned slowly in favour of a village more inland. Either way, it's likely we'll never know for sure why people left Skara Brae!

10. It's a UNESCO Site

Skara Brae is a UNESCO site, along with the other Neolithic sites on Orkney. This means that its considered a very important historical place, and is protected from damage or new buildings near it, making sure that people in the future continue to learn more from it.

11. The Vikings May Have Used It

Orkney was once a Viking stronghold, as its conveniently placed for Scandinavians looking to enter Scotland. Because of this, historians have theorised that the Vikings may have used the abandoned Skara Brae to shelter in. We know that they broke into the tomb at Maeshowe, because they left some Viking graffiti on the walls!

12. It Helps Us Understand How People Lived

As we said, Skara Brae is so important because its been untouched for thousands of years, giving us a window into the lives of Neolithic people. 'Midden' piles (piles of Neolithic rubbish) show us what the people ate, what tools they used, what crops they grew and how they managed their society. Other objects found, like artwork, show that the people of Skara Brae were both artistic and fairly peaceful - no weapons were discovered there. It's findings like these that make Skara Brae so unique!

13. It's Appeared on Film and TV

Skara Brae is world famous, and has really captured popular imagination, because it has appeared on TV, film, in books and in song. There's even an Irish band named after it, and it also pops up in video games, Indiana Jones and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

14. You Can Visit It

One of the best things about Skara Brae? You can visit it! Yes, its open to the public all year round, and you can visit recreations of the buildings, as well as the originals themselves. It's even got a cafe!

15. It's at Risk From Climate Change

Skara Brae is right on the coast of Orkney, which sees a lot of extreme weather, waves and storms. That means that, with climate change, it's at risk of being swept away or even destroyed by waves and rising sea levels. It's important that we tackle climate change to make sure Skara Brae can stay with us for many years to come!