I have just finished making the Skara Brae sculpted stone object. It was commissioned by HES for the Rangers’ handling collection to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage designation.
I began with a piece of T shaped flagstone, the same material as the original. I chipped it down to as close to the shape of the original as I could using hard igneous Quoyelsh Felsite – a stone type also widely used as a hammer here in the Neolithic. After that I started using coarse Yesnaby sandstone to grind it down eventually working up to finer quartzite to smooth the surface. Once the shape was there it just remained to engrave the lines and grooves with flint and then finished it off with a light bees’ wax.
I made the engraved pattern and general layout very close to the original. Some small details in the way lines and shapes are formed are mine. My version of the sculpture is a wee bit curvier too, and I added a small maker’s mark. See if you can spot it. I hope it’s not just a replica.
The original object was recovered in 1929 during Professor Childe’s excavations at Skara Brae along with four other equally menacing looking sculpted stone objects. Its similarity in form to a three pointed object found in Quoyness Tomb, Sanday, in the 19th Century was noted by Child.
What were these objects? The object was easy and comfortable to hold but I felt that to hold it in company in the right way would have been quite threatening. Its wielding and possession could easily have represented authority through the administration of “justice” in the same way that he Mace or the Sword of State have come to represent authority. Primarily, of course, they were weapons in their original form. Few of the things around us are ever purely functional. Added design and materials have further symbolic meaning perhaps referencing myths, ancestry, connections, wealth, social standing etc. What might the engraved pattern held within the curved palm have meant or transferred to the owner? I think these sculpted stone objects are first and foremost symbols of power but with a definite functional potential.