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Orkney venus in shortlist for 2010 best archaeological discovery

15 June 2010

The Orkney Venus has made the top three for the Best Archaeological Discovery category in the 2010 British Archaeological Awards.  The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony at the British Museum on Monday 19th July 2010.

The 5,000 year old figurine, also known as the Westray Wife, attracted international attention when it was discovered last summer by archaeologists working on the Historic Scotland excavation at the Links of Noltland, on Westray. The figurine is the only known Neolithic carving of a human form to have been found in Scotland and has been taken to heart by the 600 or so population of this most north-westerly of the Orkney islands.

Measuring 41mm by 31mm, the Orkney Venus is carved from sandstone and depicts a woman’s face and body. Its name comes from its resemblance to similar figurines classed as Venuses from elsewhere in Europe and beyond.

She is currently on display in a special exhibition created by Historic Scotland at the Westray Heritage Centre. The exhibition has attracted more than 100,00 visitors during her tour of Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Kilmartin House in Argyll and Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness.  The tour will end later on this year at the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall.

Peter Yeoman, Historic Scotland’s Head of Cultural Resources said, “The Orkney Venus is the first replica of the human form to be found in Scotland and is possibly the best and earliest to be found in the UK. Her discovery confirms the importance of the Links of Noltland as one of the most fascinating prehistoric sites in Scotland.  It’s an incredibly rich settlement site which is advancing our understanding of our Neolithic to the Bronze Age ancestors.

“The site is in our care, but is severely threatened by wind erosion which has removed the sand which protected the well preserved houses, middens and fields for 4000 years. Historic Scotland is now leading a race against the wind with further excavations being carried out for us this summer by an expert team of archaeologists from EASE Archaeology. EASE are doing an amazing job in recording and preserving as much information as possible. This expertise is attested by their discovery of the tiny but vitally important Venus figurine during their dig in 2009.

“The people of Westray are giving us tremendous support and we’re working closely with the local school as well as with the heritage trust. Mr Brown the island baker has even created Westray Wife shortbread.”

Notes for editors

  • 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 details of the Noltland dig and blog go to The dig is open to visitors on weekdays until September.

  • Historic Scotland has 345 historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit:

For further information

Jennifer Johnston Watt
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8070 or 07827 956 866