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This whale bone figurine is c.5000 years old and one of only a few prehistoric representations of the human form known in Britain. It was discovered on the late Neolithic (2900-2400 BC) settlement of Skara Brae, Orkney in the 1860s when William Watt (1777-1866), Laird of Breckness, was excavating a stone bed compartment in House 3.
The antiquarian George Petrie illustrated this figurine in his notebook and described it as an ‘idol’ or ‘fetish’ in his 1867 report on Skara Brae (Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot.). In the 19th century, the significance and rarity of this artefact was not known and it was largely forgotten.
It was recently rediscovered in the collections of Stromness Museum by Dr David Clarke. It was donated to the Museum in the 1930s as part of a large collection from the private museum in Skaill House, without information on its provenance.
This figure – named the ‘Skara Brae Buddo’ [friend in Orcadian dialect] - is on display in Stromness Museum.
Model: Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark