Going Potty at the Orkney Museum

This weekend saw the opening of Tracing the Lines: Pots and People in the Late Neolithic at the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall. Coordinated by Mike and Claire Copper, this free exhibition focusses on Late Neolithic Grooved Ware pottery and will run until the end of September. Most of the pottery has never before been on display.

Mike Copper with the newly completed exhibition at Orkney Museum

A very large Grooved Ware vessel from Crossiecrown provides one of the exhibition’s highlights








The exhibition aims to show what Grooved Ware is and why it is so important to our understandings of Late Neolithic society. Amongst the items on display are sherds of coloured Grooved Ware from the Ness of Brodgar and a spectacular large vessel from the site of Crossiecrown in St Ola. Replica pots show how Grooved Ware looked when in use, and one part of the display presents the biography of a vessel found beneath a wall of the imposing Structure 10 at the Ness of Brodgar from its manufacture, firing and use, to its deposition as part of an apparently votive act alongside a large stone incised with Grooved Ware-style motifs, animal bones and a human humerus. Accompanying the pottery itself are a number of photographs by local archaeologist and photographer Ole Thoenies.

Replica vessels are used to show stages in the life of a Grooved Ware pot from the Ness of Brodgar

Each year tens of thousands of tourists visit Orkney, with many coming specifically to see the islands’ world famous archaeological sites and the on-going excavations at the Ness of Brodgar. Tracing the Lines: Pots and People in the Late Neolithic will provide an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the significance of pottery to the former inhabitants of these sites and to the archaeologists who now work there. The organisers hope that the exhibition will also encourage people to ask questions themselves: as archaeologists, we do not have all the answers.

Preparing a replica vessel to show how Grooved Ware pots were built

Selecting sherds from around Orkney for the displays








Alongside the exhibition, Mike will be running several replica pot making sessions this summer at the Ness of Brodgar and at Swandro on Rousay. If you are thinking of heading north in July or August then keep an eye on this blog, further details will be posted soon.