The Remains Of A Large Iron Age Feast Have Been Discovered In The Orkney Islands

A large group of people held a massive celebration 1,700 years ago in South Ronaldsay.

Ring of Brodgar in Scotland.
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A large group of people held a massive celebration 1,700 years ago in South Ronaldsay.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of what would have been an enormous celebratory feast in the Orkney Islands set in the Iron Age. Tests that have been conducted in South Ronaldsay, overlooking beautiful Windwick Bay, show that there was quite a large selection on the menu at this particular meal, including fresh otters, red deer, horses, and cattle.

According to The Scotsman, the site of this particular feast has been a work in progress, with archaeologists having spent many years examining the area of The Cairns. Various tools along with a substantial number of pieces of jewelry have been found in this location, and archaeologists have now determined that this area would have once contained a space used for metalworking.

While investigating the remains of the Iron Age meal in the Orkney Islands, archaeologists were able to track down where the animal bones would have been dumped, and recovered the cooked remains of 10,000 bones, proving just how large a feast this would have been.

As archaeologist Martin Carruthers explained, the sheer volume of waste alone explains just how special this event would have been at the time.

“These numbers tell you about the scale of the feast and the largesse of being able to have that amount of food in circulation for what appears to be a short lived event.”

Carruthers noted that the Iron Age feast was most likely a way for local people to get together and commemorate the end of a particularly fruitful jewelry-making session, and this was achieved by not only eating together, but also by the distribution of gifts.

“The feast is doing two things. Its probably celebrating the successful conclusion of the making of a big batch of jewellery. The second point is the feast is pretty enormous and it is it probably the arena where pins and brooches are being handed out to individuals within the community.”

With Romans inhabiting the mainland, the feast may also have been a way to show the importance of maintaining traditional Iron Age rituals and sticking together as a society.

The remains of a rectangular building that is very close in appearance to those found in Caithness can also be seen at this location, and it has been suggested that this structure may have once been the home to what would have been a very important family who would have controlled the manufacturing of jewelry.

As Martin Carruthers further explained, those who would have been in charge of the production of jewelry would have also maintained a very strict social structure by the distribution of these goods.

“Whoever is causing this metal work to be produced is responsible for metal workers on the site or bringing in itinerant workers. The elites are driving their authority from the people and offering out these tokens in return. The items are probably of such high value that people could never have the capacity to pay back the debt. It holds you in your place. This whole event is about maintaining society.”

With the exciting discovery of the remains of this huge Iron Age feast in the Orkney Islands, archaeological work will continue in this area that is so rich and full of history.