Pre-History (7,000 BC to 600 BC)

•     7000 BC      Man first appears in Scotland.1

•     7000 BC      Mesolithic Age: hunter-gatherers on the island of Rum2

•     5500 BC        Britain becomes an Island.3

•     4000 BC      Communities first began to settle in one place and gradually adopted farming. By 4000 BC knowledge of farming as well as domestic animals and crops had reached much of Scotland.4

•     3800 BC      About 3800 BC Knap of Howar is built on the Island of Papa Westray.5  This site is the earliest house site so far identified in Orkney. Because of a lack of timber, the house was built of flagstone with midden. The house consists of an individual farmstead of two adjoining buildings. Both are long and have founded ends. The inhabitants were farmers and fisherman who kept animals, occupying the site for about 900 years. The buildings stand on a layer of pre-existing midden, perhaps indications that Knap of Howar is built on top of, or near an earlier settlement. This is the only Unston Ware Settlement discovered in Orkney.6 The largest of the Maeshowe type tombs, (Disses of Holm) is located on Papa Westray (south). Its central chamber is 20 meters long. There is also a Stalled Cairn on the opposite end of the Island (north). Both date to the  third millennium BC.7

•     3500 BC      Neolithic Age8

•     3200 BC      Skara Brae is occupied in Orkney.9 This site is one of at least five Neolithic villages located on Orkney. Skara Brae, located on Mainland at the south end of the Bay of Skaill. It is currently the best known. It consists of at least ten houses, in varying states of preservation. With the exception of one building, they are all joined together by a winding covered passage and its offshoots. Like Knap of Howar these buildings too are built of flagstone and midden. Some of the units were built at different times. Earlier houses are roughly circular. The later houses are similar in shape but have larger beds that are no longer recessed in the wall. Instead the beds are projected out toward the central hearth. Skara Brae is a sophisticated settlement site with clear evidence that it was carefully planned. It is likely that this site was occupied by 50-100 people.10

•     3000 BC      Earliest Chambered tombs built.11

•     3000 BC      Chambered Tombs of Maes Howe (Orkney)12

•     2800 BC      Maes Howe (Maeshowe) is constructed. In Orkney13  Surrounded by a ditch and a low bank, Maeshowe appears as a massive grassy mound, covering an earth and stone barrow built over a stone chamber. It may have taken as much as 100,000 hours to complete this large, complex site. Originally it may have been a tomb, perhaps for a high-ranking family. Inscribed on the southwest upright slab within   the chamber is a series of triangles and diamond shapes, along with various lines. Carved carefully with the point of a stone tool, they are characteristic of other examples of Neolithic art, and may be over 4,000 years old. Norse graffiti on the walls, inside the chamber mention the removal of a great treasure from the tomb. This is puzzling because the Neolithic builders of this site did not use metal. There is evidence that the bank surrounding the site was rebuilt in the ninth century. Perhaps, Maes Howe was a burial site used by a Norse Chieftain.14

•     2500 BC      First stone circles appear.15

•     2650 BC      Beginning of the Beaker period16

•     2600 BC      First Copper objects17

•     2200 BC     Skara Brae is abandoned.18

•     2000 BC      Bronze workings appear marking the beginning of the Bronze Age19

•     2000 BC      Chambered communal tombs go out of fashion, Cist burials are common.20

•     1100 BC      A marked deterioration in the Scottish climate begins.21 By about 1000 BC the British Isles were becoming wetter and cooler. In Scotland the change was exacerbated by massive volcanic activity on Iceland, which raised a dense blanket of dust over the surrounding sea and landmasses. The sun was blotted out for long periods leading to a drop in atmospheric pressure and further heavy rainfall.22

•     700 BC       Bronze Age ends.23 Iron is introduced rather gradually, perhaps from 700 BC. It was not widespread until several centuries later.24

•     700 BC       Broch towers emerged. They can be traced in Orkney from around 700 BC.25


  1. 7000 BC-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 181. 

  2. 7000 BC-Scotland, The Story of a Nation, ©Magnus Magnusson, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000,page 693. 

  3. 5500 BC-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 181. 

  4. 4000 BC-In Search of Scotland, Gordon Menzies, Polygon at Edinburg, 2001,page 6. 

  5. 3800 BC-A Timeline of Early Orcadian History, www.orkneyjar.com/history/timeline.htm, 6/18/01. 

  6. 3800 BC-Orkney, A Historical Guide, © Caroline Wickham Jones,1998, pages 19-22,39-40. The Islands of Orkney, Liv Kjorsvik Schei, 2000,pages 87-88. 

  7. 3800 BC-Orkney, A Historical Guide, © Caroline Wickham Jones,1998,pages 62-63. The Islands of Orkney, Liv Kjorsvik Schei, 2000,pages 87-88. 

  8. 3500 BC-Scotland, The Story of a Nation, ©Magnus Magnusson, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000, page 693. 

  9. 3200 BC-A Timeline of Early Orcadian History, www.orkneyjar.com/history/timeline.htm, 6/18/01. 

  10. 3200 BC-Orkney, A Historical Guide, © Caroline Wickham Jones,1998, pages 22-25, 37. 

  11. 3000 BC-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 181. 

  12. 3000 BC-Scotland, The Story of a Nation, ©Magnus Magnusson, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000, page 693. 

  13. 2800 BC-A Timeline of Early Orcadian History, www.orkneyjar.com/history/timeline.htm, 6/18/01. 

  14. 2800 BC-Orkney, A Historical Guide, © Caroline Wickham Jones,1998, pages 44-46. 

  15. 2500 BC-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 181. 

  16. 2650 BC-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 181. 

  17. 2600 BC-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 181. 

  18. 2200 BC-A Timeline of Early Orcadian History, www.orkneyjar.com/history/timeline.htm, 6/18/01 

  19. 2000 BC-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 181. 

  20. 2000 BC-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 181. 

  21. 1100 BC-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 181. 

  22. 1100 BC-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 62, 

  23. 700 BC-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 181. 

  24. 700 BC-In Search of Scotland, Gordon Menzies, Polygon at Edinburg, 2001, pages 20-21. 

  25. 700 BC-In Search of Scotland, Gordon Menzies, Polygon at Edinburg, 2001, page 21.