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Scotland's earliest human face takes to the road

8 March 2010

5,000 year old Orkney Venus to go on tour

Scotland’s earliest human face, the Orkney Venus is to go on temporary display at venues across Scotland.

The 5,000 year old figurine- also known as the Westray Wife, was discovered last summer by archaeologists working on the Historic Scotland excavation at the Links of Noltland, on the Orkney island of Westray. The figurine is the only known Neolithic carving of a human form to have been found in Scotland.

Measuring 41mm by 31mm- the Venus is made from sandstone and depicts a human face and body. The name comes from its resemblance to prehistoric carvings from elsewhere in Europe- often referred to as Venus figurines.

The exhibition will open this Saturday (13th March) at the Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle and will remain in Stirling until 26th March before progressing to Kilmartin House in Argyll and Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness. It will then return to Orkney for the summer and will be on display at the Westray Heritage Centre before moving to the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall.

Minister for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said;

“This was a find of tremendous international as well as national importance, so it is fantastic that people have the opportunity to see the Venus first hand.

“By taking it on tour across Scotland we want to ensure that as many people as possible get to see the Orkney Venus and find out more about the vast amount of activity that is going on to protect and enhance our rich archaeological heritage.”

As well as providing an overview of recent research on the Venus, the exhibition will tell the story of the current excavations on Westray. The Links of Noltland is one of Orkney’s richest and most threatened sites, with severe wind erosion causing the collapse of the dune system which has protected the archaeology for thousands of years.

Richard Strachan, Senior Archaeologist at Historic Scotland explains;

“The Links of Noltand is one of the most fascinating sites in Scotland – with extensive evidence still surviving about the people who lived there from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age.

“The site is under our care, and each year archaeological teams record and preserve as much information as we can from the site – as the wind strips away and uncovers different layers.

“The discovery of the Orkney Venus was further confirmation of the importance of this site- and the secrets it may hold. It is extremely rare to find any replicas of the human form dating from this period- this is the first of its kind in Scotland, and certainly one of the best preserved.

“Research is still ongoing looking at the possible origins of the figure - was it for example a sacred object or used for decorative purposes, and we hope that people will take the opportunity to come along and see this mysterious and extremely rare creature.”

For opening times and further information please visit www.stirlingcastle.gov.uk/orkneyvenus or to see a sneak preview of the Venus please go to  www.youtube.com/historicscotlandtv

PHOTOGRAPHY IS AVAILABLE FROM HISTORIC SCOTLAND
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Notes for editors

The Orkney Venus:

The Orkney Venus will be at the following venues and dates:

  • Stirling Castle: Sat 13th March – Friday 26th March
  • Kilmartin House:  Friday 2nd April – Sunday 18th April
  • Urquhart Castle Thursday 22nd April – Sunday 9th May
  • It will then return to Orkney for the summer season will be on display at the Westray Heritage Centre before moving to the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall.

About Historic Scotland:

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament. For more information visit www.historic-scotland.gov.uk
  • Register for media release email alerts from www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/news.


For further information


Iona Matheson
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8703 or 07827 956 858
iona.matheson@scotland.gsi.gov.uk