At www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/05/2012/10000-year-old-orkney-… is a map of the Orkney – as it was in 8000BC. This is at a considerable time after the end of the Ice Age and yet the Orkneys were still a very large piece of land situated off the north coast of Scotland. The web site has maps of the Orkneys as they were 10,000 years ago, and as they were 5000 years ago (the last major permanent shift in sea level). The Rising Tide project is responsible for the now submerged landscape, utilising sediment samples from around Scapa Flow and combined this with bathymetric data (and welded together with computer simulation). Hence, there are some inbuilt assumptions. However we might approach that what is clear is that sea level around Orkney has risen by at least 30m – which is considerable. The Orkney landscape was completely different when Mesolithic people were living there (as illustrated on several occasions by Steve Mitchell in SIS organs). Evidence of early settlement is therefore mainly on the sea floor (see also the Orkneyjar web site, www.orkneyjar.com).
The publication of the map happens to coincide with a piece on Orkney in Current Archaeology 205 (July 2012) – see www.archaeology.co.uk. This is about the discovery of an early Neolithic farm on one of the smaller islands, a settlement earlier than Skara Brae. One of the buildings appears to have been ritually burnt at the end of its life – the kind of practise known elsewhere in respect of Neolithic farming communities.