Archaeological find worth its weight in stone?
A major archaeological find has been discovered within a shipment of stone to Orkney from Oban, experts have confirmed this morning.
A stone figurine, believed to date back to the Neolithic era, was unearthed by staff at Cursiter Quarry, as they unloaded the latest lorry load from the controversial 80,000-tonne stone order.
Orkney Islands Council has borne the brunt of major criticism for its £1.4million purchase of stone from Glensanda Quarry in Oban. Last month, the council’s interim chief executive offered an unreserved apology after an investigation found that the order had failed to adhere to procurement policies.
But in a true twist of fate, the authority’s calamity could now generate more than its weight in stone for the local economy, according to archaeologists.
“This is a very rare and unique find,” said Dr Avril Foulis, an archaeological consultant from the Friends of Orkney Lithology Society.
“The figurine is in near-perfect condition, despite being approximately 5,000 years old, and having travelled the 250-mile journey to Orkney within the stone shipment.
“This could present a breakthrough opportunity for Orkney archaeologists and the tourism industry alike. If we take the right steps, it could bring in millions of pounds in academic funding as well as additional footfall from visitors. This could be just the post-pandemic boost Orkney needs.”
Dr Foulis and her colleagues believe the find could be just the first of many to come.
“We have assembled a team to examine and oversee the remainder of the stone which is being shipped from Oban,” she continued.
“If there are any more discoveries to be made, we hope to be able to unearth them with little difficulty or disruption to the work at Cursiter Quarry.
“We have been lucky to get the use of a fleet of wheelie bins in order for us to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.”
While it has been assumed the figurine will remain in Orkney, authorities in Oban have already made representations for it to be returned to its place of origin.
Kirkwall East councillor John Ross Scott was quick to defend OIC’s position, and suggested that plans may be afoot for a permanent visitor attraction, to be built on the Cursiter Quarry household Waste and recycling centre (HWRC).
In the meantime, a temporary portacabin has been sourced to house the figurine, he says.
“The stone is legally ours, and we paid handsomely for it, so therefore the figurine is ours too,” he said.
“I went out to visit the site, last night, as soon as I found out about the discovery. I wasn’t able to get in to see it, but I look forward to sharing photos of it on Facebook at the earliest opportunity.”