Orkney Venus Comes to Edinburgh

By Tracy Norris

Barely over 4 centimetres tall, the Orkney Venus saw daylight for the first time in 5,000 years when she was unearthed by archaeologists this summer.  Found during an excavation by Historic Scotland on the Orkney island of Westray, the figure is a rare and exciting find.

”]Archaeologist Jakob Kainz made the discovery of the face [Pic: Historic Scotland]Not only is the charming, simplistic figurine the oldest depiction of a human discovered in Scotland, it is the oldest depiction of an actual face ever found in the UK.

Orkney is famed for the Neolithic site at Skara Brae, and this latest discovery on Westray further establishes the immense archaeological importance of Orkney.

Small eyes and a heavy brow are scratched into the soft stone of the figure.  What seem to be breasts suggest she is female and locals have fondly named her the Westray Wife.  More scratched marks suggest clothing and perhaps hair.

What was she for?  Well, that’s what experts are hoping to discover at the National Museum of Scotland when they study her in more detail this month.  According to Historic Scotland, “in the immediate future it is likely that experts are likely to generate at least as many questions as answers as they try to get to grips with the significance of the Orkney Venus”.

The figurine has been brought to Edinburgh for further studies and is currently on display at Edinburgh Castle until October 3rd.  Children can visit free if they say the word ‘Orkney’ when they arrive at the ticket desk.  As the City’s schools are enjoying half term, the Orkney Venus is likely to be a big draw for visitors to the castle, particularly families.

The Orkney Venus will continue a tour through several Historic Scotland sites, eventually returning home to Orkney where she will be displayed for visitors to the islands.