A house with stone furniture from thousands of years ago is still intact in the UK. At almost 6,000 years old, this house has a neat history.
The home is located on the island of Papa Westray in Orkey, Scotland. The Knap of Howar is a Neolithic farmstead thought to be the oldest preserved stone home in all of northern Europe.
The home is made of two structures. It is two stone-built, oblong houses. Radiocarbon dating shows that they were built around 3,600 BC. The home was occupied by Neolithic farmers for over five centuries.
These homes were uncovered when sea erosion in the 1930s unearthed hidden material. The stone walls were revealed by the severe erosion.
The farmstead has thick walls with low doorways that face the sea. The older structure is the largest. It is linked by a passageway to the other home. This home was probably a second dwelling place or a workshop. There are no windows on either of the structures. This meant the homes were probably lit with fire. There was probably a hole to let out the smoke in the roof. These structures are close to the shore, but at the time would probably have been more inland.
There are many stone structures still intact in the home. There are beds, fireplaces, partition screens, and storage shelves. Post holes were also found meaning there was once a roof.
There is a short stone bench along the wall of the outer chamber. The other chamber includes what was probably a kitchen. It has a footing for wooden benches and a central hearth. There is also a stone quern that was used at that time to grind barley.
The other structure is separated with large stone slabs into three different areas. This is baffling to some because the door joining two of the second was set. This could mean that the workshop or other home was not used anymore at one time. Both of its entrances were blocked with stones.
The current two homes were not the first in this same location. The excavations reveal that they were probably built on top of other structures. Both of the structures were made of stone because trees were always hard to find on these islands. The red stone found locally easily splits into slabs ready for construction. The walls were made of drystone and the cavity was filled with midden materials. This type of construction may have been used to help reduce the amount of labour. The resultant wall wouldn’t have been as stable as a wall made of stone. The spaces inside were divided by stone slabs. This is the same type of construction found in contemporary tombs.
The area around these structures has changed drastically in the past 5,000 years. Back then, Papay and its neighbor, Westray, probably were only separated by a bridge. There were a large number of oyster shells around the site. Oysters need sheltered water to live; however, sheltered water would have only been found between the two islands.
There were also pieces of decorated and finely-made Unstan ware pottery. This meant whoever lived in these home were linked to nearby chambered cairn tombs. It means the inhabitants were in contact and traded with the people in central Orkney. Some people think it is weird there are not any tombs at this site. This could be due to the fact that many tombs that existed at this time fell into the sea.
The remains tell a story. The inhabitants at one time were cultivating wheat and barley. they also kept sheep, cattle, and pigs. They probably gathered shellfish and fished for other food. The name of Howar is probably derived from an Old Norse word “haugr.” this meant barrows or mounds.