Knap of Howar Timeline

Knap of Howar Timeline


Knap of Howar Statement of Significance

Historic Environment Scotland Statements of Significance are documents outlining the history and development of Scotland's Properties in Care. They highlight the key features that make the properties special.

The statements highlight the key features that make the properties special. We’re continually revising them, so they vary in length, format and level of detail.

Many were compiled some time ago and some are very much a work in progress.

We try to take a holistic approach to the Properties in Care. As well as being nationally important because of their cultural significance, they can:

stand as well-loved local landmarks

provide habitats for rare or endangered species

provide spectacular images of Scotland which add to our national identity

The statements aim to articulate these values. They inform our conservation work, provide a basis for interpreting the site to visitors, and highlight areas where more research is needed.


10 Oldest Structures in the World (Updated 2020)

Most of the structures on this list date back to the Neolithic era (which started around 15,200 BCE and ended sometime between 4500 – 2000 BCE). However the two oldest existing structures in the world, predate this time period, which is considered to be when the first civilizations (by modern standards) emerged. These early structures were typically made of stone and used as burial chambers or temples. Most of these sites have become historic national treasures and provide insight into the lives of early humans. All of these structures still stand today and many have been restored over the years.

10. Listoghil

Date: c.3550 BCE
Location: County Sligo, Ireland
Use: Passage tomb

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Listoghil (or Carrowmore 51) is the large central monument that is a part of the Carrowmore group of prehistoric tombs found in County Sligo, Ireland. Sometime during the 1800s, the site was damaged by workmen removing rocks for “road metal”, but once the workers uncovered the central tomb chamber, the site’s destruction stopped. Listoghil is the only part of the Carrowmore passage tombs believed to have had a cairn or covering mound of stones.

In the late 1990s, the site was partly excavated by Swedish archaeologist, Goran Burenhult, who dated bones and carbon material and also uncovered the still intact kerb, or stone ring built to enclose barrow over a chamber tomb. The site was restored by the Office of Public Works and a new cairn was placed over the tomb.

Did You Know?

The roof slab of the cairn at Listoghil has concentric circular carvings on it that are only visible in certain light. This is a rare example of Irish megalithic art outside of the Boyne valley.

9. West Kennet Long Barrow

Date: c.3650 BCE
Location: Wiltshire, England
Use: Tomb

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The West Kennet Long Barrow is a Neolithic tomb found in Wiltshire, England that dates back to about 3650 BCE. Researchers believe that the tomb was used for about 1,000 years and was sealed sometime around 2000 BCE – the main passage was filled with earth, stone, rubble, and debris.

Then the forecourt was blocked with sarsen boulders and a false entrance and finally, three massive sarsen blocking stones were placed across the front of the tomb. The tomb was first excavated in 1859 and then again in 1955-1956 and researchers found at least 46 individuals within the barrow, ranging from babies to elderly persons.

Did You Know?

The Neolithic people who built the West Kennet Long Barrow used oolitic limestone to fill in the gaps of the large sarsen stones. This limestone does not occur naturally in the area and must have come from the Cotswold hills located 20 – 30 miles (32.2 – 48.3 kilometers) away.

8. Ggantija Temples

Date: c.3600 – 3200 BCE
Location: Gozo, Malta
Use: Religious temple

photo source: Wikimedia Commons


The Ġantija Temples are the earliest of the Megalithic Temples of Malta, dating back to between 3600 – 3200 BCE. The site consists of two temples, which are older than the Egyptian pyramids, and today are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The temples are believed to be part of ceremonial site used for a fertility rite – researches have found numerous statues and figurines that allude to this use.

There are also animal bones and remains as well as stone hearths that suggest rituals involving animal sacrifice were performed at the temples. The Ġgantija Temples and their surrounding areas were restored in the 2000s and a heritage park was opened in 2013.

Did You Know?

According to Gozitan folklore, the Ġgantija Temples were built by a giantess who had a child with a regular man and wanted the temples to be used as places of worship.

7. Knap of Howar

Date: c.3700 BCE
Location: Island of Papa Westray, Orkney, Scotland
Use: House

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Knap of Howar is a Neolithic site on the island of Papa Westray in Orkney, Scotland that is believed to be the oldest preserved stone house in northern Europe. The site consists of two “houses”, commonly referred to as “the farmstead”, which were built through dry stone construction with an adjoining passageway between them.

Excavations show evidence that the inhabitants of the house kept cattle, sheep, and pigs cultivated barley and wheat gathered shellfish and also fished for species which need to be line caught using boats. The larger building (House One) is believed to be the living quarters while House Two served as a workshop and storage space.

Did You Know?

While the Knap of Howar is close to Papa Westray’s coast today, when it was still being used, the house would have been much further inland in a wide meadow.

6. Monte d’Accoddi

Date: c.4000 – 3650 BCE
Location: Sardinia, Italy
Use: Possibly an open-air temple, ziggurat, or a step pyramid

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Monte d’Accoddi is a large stone structure located in Sardinia, Italy – it looks like a step pyramid, but is not confirmed to be a pyramid. Although the site has been extensively researched, the structure’s purpose has not been determined researchers speculate that it may have been an altar, ziggurat, mound, an ancient temple, or possibly an astronomical observatory.

The site was discovered in 1954 and the structure and its surrounding areas were excavated in the 1960s. Near the monument is a dolmen (a single chamber megalithic tomb), a prominent menhir, one of several standing standing stones that were formerly found in the vicinity, and several mysterious carved stones.

Did You Know?

Archaeologists believe that the Monte d’Accoddi was built by the Ozieri culture, a prehistoric pre-Nuragic culture that lived in Sardinia from c. 3200 to 2800 BCE.

5. Tumulus of St. Michel

Date: c.4500 BCE
Location: Carnac, France
Use: Burial mound

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Tumulus of St. Michel is a megalithic grave mound found in Carnac, France, dating back to around 4500 BCE. At 125m(410ft) long, 60m (196.85ft) wide, and 10m (32.8ft) high, the tumulus is the largest burial mound in continental Europe.

The mound was excavated in 1862 and researchers found a central vault containing fairly prestigious funerary furniture such as axes, pearls, flint tools, and sillimanite. The Tumulus of St. Michel was declared a Monument historique (French national heritage site) in 1889. Today, the St. Michel chapel is located on the tumulus’ summit.

Did You Know?

All of the objects found within the Tumulus of St. Michel are now on display at the Carnac and Vannes Polymathique museums.

4. Tumulus of Bougon

Date: c.4700 BCE
Location: Bougon, France
Use: Burial mounds

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Tumulus of Bougon or Necropolis of Bougon consists of a group of five Neolithic barrows. The barrows were built at various times between 4700 – 3500 BCE. The tumulus mounds were re-discovered in 1840 and to protect the monuments from destruction and damage, the site was acquired by the department of Deux-Sèvres in 1873.

The five barrows are notable for being different from one another as each one showcases a unique architectural style. During excavations, researchers uncovered over 200 skeletons and grave goods. Today, the site is open to the public and a small museum which displays the archaeological finds from the tumulus is located nearby.

Did You Know?

In 1979, archaeologists conducted an experiment to figure out how the builders of the Tumulus of Bougon would have transported a 32 ton megalith from the nearby quarry – they successfully transported the stone from the quarry to the site.

3. Cairn of Barnenez

Date: c. 4850 BCE
Location: Brittany, France
Use: Passage grave

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Cairn of Barnenez (also called the Barnenez Tumulus of Barnenez Mound) is one of the oldest structures in the world and dates back to the Neolithic period. It is a stone burial chamber and is considered to be the largest megalithic mausoleum in Europe.

The cairn is made out of two burial chambers – the older one dating back to between 4850 – 4500 BCE made out of dolerite and the second one made a few hundred years later built with granite from the Île de Sterec. Megalithic art, such as wavy lines, axes, and bows, are carved into the stone chambers and passages.

Did You Know?

It is estimated that it took about 12,000 to 14,000 metric tons of stone to build the Cairn of Barnenez.

2. Theopetra Cave Wall

Date: c.21000 BCE
Location: Near Kalambaka, Thessaly, Greece
Use: Stone wall most likely used as a barrier against cold winds

photo source: Archaeology Wiki


Humans inhabited Theopetra Cave as far back as 130,000 years ago and various ancient peoples called the cave home during different eras. Due to so much human activity in the cave, Theopetra is a treasure trove of ancient artifacts and provides insight into the lives of early humans.

One of Theopetra Cave’s most notable features is a 23,000 year old stone wall. Archaeologists believe that the wall was built as a barrier against cold winds as its construction dates back to the last glacial age. The wall is widely cited as the oldest existing man-made structure in the world.

Did You Know?

The remains of the Theopetra Cave Wall were only discovered in 2010, using a relatively new method of dating known as Optically Stimulated Luminescence.

1. Ngunnhu Fish Traps of Brewarrina

Date: c.40,000 years ago
Location: Brewarrina, New South Wales, Australia
Use: Fish traps

photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Conollyb

The Ngunnhu Fish Traps of Brewarrina in Australia were supposedly built by the Aboriginal peoples about 40,000 years ago. However, this date is uncertain as the Aboriginals don’t keep written records, but this date of the Ngunnhu Fish Traps coincides with recent DNA evidence that shows the Aboriginals already settled in Australia between 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. With this in mind, it’s plausible that the Ngunnhu Fish Traps of Brewarrina are tens of thousands years old, making them the oldest structures in the world.

As their name suggests, the Ngunnhu Fish Traps were used to capture fish along the Barwon River. The traps are actually a complex system of river stones arranged to form ponds and channels that catch fish as they travel downstream.

Did You Know?

According to Aboriginal legend, the Ngunnhu Fish Traps were inspired by the pelican.


Knap of Howar, Scotland

The Knap of Howar is located on the Scottish island of Papa Westray and is home to a Neolithic farmstead dating back to 3,500 BCE. Made up of two adjacent, rounded rectangular, thick-walled buildings with very low doorways, the farmstead is believed to be the oldest preserved stone house in northern Europe.

According to Historic Environment, the Knap of Howar’s two buildings are contemporary with the chambered Orkney tombs, such as Midhowe. Not only are they they some of the earliest Neolithic settlements in this part of the continent — but the best preserved, and most clearly Neolithic.

The two buildings stand side by side and are both oblong-shaped. While the first structure is larger than the second, both entrances remain intact, and both buildings stand at about 5.25 feet tall. Additionally, a short passage connects the two.

Excavations at the site have uncovered stone tools, such as grinders and borers — which have been found at other Orkney sites, of latter settlements, as well. Evidence of a partly agricultural economy, such as wheat and barley production, and the domestication of animals, was also found.

Ritual ceremonies were likely practiced at the Knap of Howar, too, as evident by the discovery of an antler and the head of a mace built from whalebone.


Taversöe Tuick

Taversöe Tuick (or Taversoe Tuick) is a Neolithic burial cairn on Rousay, Orkney, Scotland, thought to date from between 4000 and 2500 BCE. [1] The monument includes a rare example of a double-tiered chamber, [1] an upper chamber approached via a passageway and a lower subterranean chamber, originally separate, which can now be reached via a modern ladder from the upper chamber. [2] [3] It is unknown why the chambers were stacked in this way. [3] The monument includes a third miniature chamber slightly downhill of the lower chamber, and linked to it by a small channel which has sometimes been called a 'drain' although that is not believed to be its true purpose. [4]

In 1898 excavations uncovered part of the upper chamber, and access was gained to the intact lower chamber. [4] The site was fully excavated in 1937, at which time the upper chamber was covered with a domed roof. [4] Finds included several skeletons, cremated bone, bowls, a mace-head, a flint arrowhead and scrapers, and shale disc beads. [4]

The site is a scheduled monument in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, [2] and the monument and chambers are open to the public. [3]

  1. ^ ab"Taversöe Tuick Chambered Cairn". Historic Environment Scotland: Visit a Place . Retrieved 16 March 2020 .
  2. ^ ab
  3. "Taversoe Tuick, chambered cairn and nearby remains". Historic Environment Scotland. SM90297 . Retrieved 16 March 2020 .
  4. ^ abc
  5. Hamilton, Dave (2019). Wild Ruins BC. Bath: Wild Things Publishing. p. 270. ISBN978-1910636169 .
  6. ^ abcd
  7. "Rousay, Taversoe Tuick". Canmore. 2634 . Retrieved 17 March 2020 .

This article about a Scottish building or structure is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.

This Scottish history-related article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.


Around 1874 – Mark Twain House & Museum, USA

Mark Twain House & Museum, USA

Arguably the oldest house in Connecticut, USA, the Mark Twain House was built in 1874. Named after its owner Samuel L Clemens, whose pen name was Mark Twain, the house was designed to look like a riverboat.

Reports indicate that the house was designed by New York’s noted architect Edward Tuckerman. Its building style is that of Victorian gothic revival architecture.

When the construction of the house was underway, Hartford Daily Times reported: “The novelty displayed in the architecture of the building, the oddity of its internal arrangement and the fame of its owner will all conspire to make it a house of note for a long time to come.”

The Mark Twain House received the David E Finley Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1977. In addition, it was named by The National Geographic Society (NGS) as one of the top ten historic homes in the world.


Construction of the buildings

The Knap of Howar - main entrance, inside aspect

You can see from the photographs that the stonework is skillfully constructed and similar to that employed in building dykes (field walls) and 18th-19th century houses on Papay. The rock which underlies the island splits naturally into flags and blocks and requires little in the way of dressing.

Post-holes were found which once housed the roof-supports. These were upto 120 mm (over 7 inches) wide. It seems difficult to believe today that such solid posts could have come from a virtually treeless island. Perhaps the climate was a little more favourable, or the posts came as driftwood. They may even have been traded across the sea. No roof debris remained within the buildings, suggesting that they had been covered with turf or thatch.

The buildings were surrounded by layers of midden (waste) covering some 500 square metres. The surviving remains had been built into the oldest layer of waste (suggesting even older habitation). The midden was made of decomposed domestic waste, including fishbones, shells (mainly limpets, but also cockles, winkles and razor shells). The fish were inshore rockling, ballan wrasse and young saithe, together with cod, larger saithe and other deep-water species which could only be caught at least 2 miles out at sea.

Main entrance from south-west

The Knap could not have been built by primitive hunter-gatherers. They were 'the products of a confident farming society' according to Anna Ritchie. What were they like, these confident farmers? Evidence from the chambered cairns shows them to have been similar to modern Orcadians (inhabitants of Orkney). But, on average, they were slightly shorter and few lived into their fifties. They were probably descendants of mesolithic (middle stone age) people who followed the retreating ice caps through north-east Scotland, Caithness and across the Pentland Firth.

Modern humans may favour a Mediterranean-type climate but Orkney provided ideal conditions for neolithic civilisation: 'land suitable for mixed farming, building materials for permanent settlements, natural food resources and a reasonable climate' (Ritchie). The inhabitants of the Knap farmed cattle and sheep in addition to their fishing. The pottery found at the Knap of Howar is known as Unstan ware - Unstan being the site where such pottery was first found.

Source:adapted from Anna Ritchie, 'The first settlers' in Renfrew, Colin (1990), The Prehistory of Orkney: BC4000-1000AD, Edinburgh University Press.

> Papa Westray - photographs and information about the island.


Buildings Edit

    ziggurat near Kashan, Iran (3200BCE) [1] - megalithic temple complex on the island of Gozo (part of Malta, c.3600–2500 BCE) - fortified city of the Indus Valley Civilization with as many as 40,000 residents (3300–1600 BCE)
    Northern Europe
      - oldest known field systems in the world, located in West Ireland complex - Neolithic passage tombs in County Meath, Ireland (c.3300–2900 BCE) - oldest preserved stone house in northern Europe, on the Orkney island of Papa Westray occupied from 3500–3100 BCE - Europe's most complete Neolithic village located in the Bay of Skaill in Orkney, Scotland - the earliest phase of the monument has been dated to about 3100 BCE - oldest known engineered roadway located in Shapwick, Somerset, England (3806 BCE)
    1. ^ Kohl, Philip L. Bäck, Lucien R. Claessen, Henri J. M. Gilman, Antonio Hamlin, Christopher L. Hayashi, Kensaku Lamberg-Karlovsky, C. C. Nissen, Hans J. Oates, Joan (1978-09-01). "The Balance of Trade in Southwestern Asia in the Mid-Third Millennium B.C. [and Comments and Reply]". Current Anthropology. 19 (3): 463–492. doi:10.1086/202136. JSTOR2741769.

    This article about history of architecture is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.


    Ancient Environmental Habits

    Ancient cultures regarded waste much differently from the way we look at it today and early civilizations reused and repaired what they could, rather than dumping it. Their waste was mostly ash from fires, broken wood, pottery, bones and vegetable matter. Food waste was used to feed animals and put in the ground to decompose. The oldest human poop samples, according to a recent National Geographic article , was discovered at El Salt in southern Spain, where researchers investigating fire pits for traces of meat fats unexpectedly found fossil feces, or coprolites, in a top hearth layer dated to 50,000 years ago. This occurrence informs specialists that early Mesolithic hunters simply ‘shat where they sat,’ and without as much as blinking as eyelid simply hurled it onto the fire

    Hearth of fire pit uncovered in El Salt, southern Spain holding human fecal fossils . (Image: © 2014 Sistiaga et al/ CC BY SA )

    Coming forward in time 43,000 years, humans took baby steps and rather than burning their waste they used it as building materials. Knap of Howar is an ancient Neolithic farmstead situated on the island of Papa Westray in Orkney, Scotland, and is thought to be the oldest preserved stone houses in northern Europe, occupied between 3700 BC to 2800 BC. In the 1970s archaeologists found discarded food stuffs packed around the two stone buildings as insulation.

    Discarded foodstuff was used to insulate these buildings at Knap of Howar, Scotland. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )


    Pyramid of Djoser

    The Pyramid of Djoser was constructed between 2667–2648BC and is the resting place of Djoser – the second king of the 3rd dynasty of the Egyptian Old Kingdom, who reigned for 19 years.

    This innovative tomb, which dominates the Saqqara landscape in Egypt, is surrounded by a light Tura limestone wall that’s 10.5m high, with the overall structure imitating mudbrick. The outside wall is completely surrounded by a trench dug in the underlying rock, measuring 750m long and 40m wide.

    A roofed passageway entrance with a limestone ceiling was constructed to look like tree trunks and leads to a stone imitation of two open doors – this area houses 20 pairs of limestone columns that were built to look like bundles of plant stems.

    The burial chamber was constructed out of four courses of well-dressed granite and had one opening, which was sealed by a 3.5-ton block after the burial. Unfortunately, nobody was ever found as the tomb had been robbed.


    Watch the video: The Knap of Howar and the Origins of Geometry. Nicholas Cope. Megalithomania