Orkney "Wife" Venus / Noltland Figure

 

  • Age: Around 5,000 BCE
  • Material: Red Sandstone
  • Found: Island of Westray (Orkney) in 2009
  • Present Location: Westray Heritage Centre
  • Length:4.1cm
  • Width: 3.1cm
  • Depth: 1.2cm

(move cursor over images to magnify replica)

Discovery

The Orkney "Wife" (or Noltland Figurine) was found in at the golf links at Noltland on the Island of Westray in 2009, by Archaeologist Jakob Kainz in a midden filled with the brittle bones of deer, cattle and fish. The site (below) is still being excavated under the leadership of Site Director Hazel Moore (far right).

Noltland Excavation 2014

Dating / Materials / Form

The venus like figurine was the first Neolithic carving of a human form to have been discovered in Scotland and was made from Old Red Sandstone from the island of Eday.

The head is divided from the shoulder line of the body by a deep groove and has a finely carved "M" shaped line which is probably a brow line, beneath are two dots likely to be eyes and two parallel vertical lines that may represent a nose, with a possible mouth below. Some scratches on top of the skull could also be hair.

On the front side of the torso are what appear to be either some form of dress fastening, or possibly breasts. The right breast is squarer and more emphasised than the left, which is diamond-shaped. On the back is a clear lattice pattern which might represent textile or clothing, such as a cloak, or body decoration.

Use / Meaning

Dr Alison Sheridan, Head of Early Prehistory in the National Museums Scotland archaeology department, suggests the figure was made by quickly shaping a beach pebble with a bone tool or similar.

More Info

  • The Orkney Wifie is on display at the Westray Heritage Centre in Pierowall, Westray
  • A second figure was recovered in July 2010
  • A third figure was found in 2012
  • The two additional figures have been found and are also on display at the Westray Heritage Centre
  • A local resident bakes Orkney Wifie biscuits for sale in the heritage centre

 

orkney figure

Note: This item was "home-made" from FIMO. A copy can be purchased from Anciencraft - see Services and Sales

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