Coarse Stone Tools from the Ness of Brodgar
: Investigating the Function and Significance of Orcadian Neolithic Multi-Hollowed Cobbles

  • Gary Lloyd

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Research (awarded by UHI)


Coarse Stone Tools are among the most understudied artefacts in the Scottish Prehistoric
context. While they are one of the most ubiquitous artefacts recovered at many archaeological
sites, they were often seen as crude implements without much archaeological merit. This belief
was only compounded by the various typologies within this tool group. The Scottish
Archaeological Research Framework for 2012 highlighted the gap in Coarse Stone Tool research
as one of their key issues. This study aimed to begin to fill that gap with a multi-method pilot study researching the function and significance of one of the Coarse Stone Tool types, Multi-hollowed Cobbles. Thirty-four tools from the Neolithic site at the Ness of Brodgar, Orkney, were chosen for the study. Experimental archaeology based on the evidence of the tasks used at the Ness of Brodgar utilised locally available raw materials to generate a tool wear reference collection. Each of the artefacts in the assemblage was analysed for wear through a comparison with the experimental tools utilising macro photography, photogrammetry, GIS, and microscopy. A spatial, archaeological context and temporal analysis was also conducted. The study determined that the raw materials used for Multi-hollowed Cobbles were of a narrow range of materials chosen by rock type, morphology, and weight and whose procurement involved planning and exchange. It showed that specific tasks resulted in distinctive types of wear on Coarse Stone Tools. It found that the deposits of Multi-hollowed Cobble were limited to specific structures during limited periods; some deposits may indicate the tasks taking place in the structures, and others may indicate structured deposition. Ultimately, this study demonstrated that a cost-effective, efficient methodology could be used to paint a richer biography for Multi-hollowed Cobbles, opening the door to the future study of Coarse Stone Tools in the broader Scottish context.
Date of Award28 Mar 2024
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJane Downes (Supervisor)

Cite this