A rare piece of Neolithic art has been discovered on a beach in Orkney. The 6,000-year-old relic, thought to be a fragment from a larger piece, was left exposed by storms which swept across the country last week. Local plumber David Barnes, who found the stone on the beach in Sandwick Bay, South Ronaldsay, said circular markings had shown up in the late-afternoon winter sun, drawing his attention to the piece.Archeologists last night heralded the discovery as a "once-in- 50-years event". But they warned that a search for other fragments inthe area would be hampered by a lack of funds. "At first, I just thought it was an interesting pattern from the erosion," said Mr Barnes, 44.
"Then I knew it was fairly rare. It's a miracle I spotted it."He said he realised the find could be significant after he read more about the local history of the area. Archaeologists compared the discovery to the Westray Stone, a Neolithic carved stone discovered in 1981 during routine quarrying work. It has been in Orkney Mus-eum for more than 25 years but is due to be returned to the area this week and exhibited in the new Westray Heritage Centre in Pierowall.
Stone was once part of a Neolithic chambered cairn which is thought to
have been destroyed in prehistory. A second part, and two smaller
carved pieces, were foundthe following spring in a dig led by Niall
Sharples, of the University of Cardiff.
Mrs Julie Gibson, Orkney
county archaeologist, said the latest discovery must be the result of
erosion from recent storms, as the carved patterns would not have
successfully survived so many thousands of years' exposure on soft
She said: "This piece is
really a once-in-50-years discovery. I was very pleased to find out
David really had such a piece of Neolithic art. It's not something that
happens every day.
"Natural stones always have
patterns in them and quite often people mistake patterns for art. It
was surprising David was able to see this on the beach.
"The stone is perhaps from
a chambered tomb and could be as old as 5,000 or 6,000 years, and would
have possibly been used as a ceremonial, sacredob......
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