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5,000-year-old potter's fingerprint found in Orkney

Archaeologists have uncovered a potter’s fingerprint on a piece of clay – from 5000 years ago. The imprint was found on a shred of pot recovered from the Ness of Brodgar excavation site in Orkney, in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

5,000-year-old potter's fingerprint found in Orkney
The potter's fingerprint on the sherd of clay found at the Ness of Brodgar site in Orkney
[Credit: UHI Archaeology Institute]

It was discovered by a ceramics specialist who was examining shreds of clay from the area, the largest collection of late Neolithic grooved ware pottery in the UK.

Experts used Reflectance Transformation Imaging to confirm the suspected print – the only one ever found at the site which has been under investigation since 2006. The technology sees multiple photographs taken of a subject, each with a different, but controlled, light source.

5,000-year-old potter's fingerprint found in Orkney
The print was left by a potter pressing a finger into wet clay
[Credit: UHI Archaeology Institute]

These are combined using computer software to create a highly detailed model of the object that can be lit from all angles and closely examined on screen. It produces images which often reveal surface details not visible during normal examination. It is hoped analysis of the fingerprint will reveal the gender and age of the potter.

Excavation director Nick Card said: “Working on such as high-status site as the Ness of Brodgar, with its beautiful buildings and stunning range of artefacts, it can be all too easy to forget about the people behind this incredible complex. But this discovery really does bring these people back into focus.”

Source: STV News [April 23, 2021]

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