Stone tools from Orkney and Shetland

Coarse stone tools are frequent finds at prehistoric sites in Orkney and Shetland. A whole range of tools was made and used for diverse jobs such as butchering, flint knapping, craft work, agriculture, storage and food processing.

These stone assemblages are often large, dominated by particular tool types and are found at many different types of site including both funerary and domestic settings.

Recent research into the contexts of these various tools from sites across the Northern Isles has demonstrated aspects of continuity and change within and between assemblages. This variability within the artefactual record can be interpreted at  broader level in order to assess the social implications which these patterns may represent.

You can read more at:

Clarke, A 2006 Stone tools and the Prehistory of the Northern Isles British Archaeological Report, 406.


Stone tools and butchering

 Skaill knives are simple flake tools made from sandstone cobbles. They are commonly found in middens associated with settlements of the Late Neolithic  in Orkney. Wear traces are often visible on these tools indicating that they had been used prior to deposition.  Given the perceived ‘softness’ or fragility of the sandstone the question arose as to what exactly these stone flakes had been used for and an experimental programme was designed to investigate the potential of the Skaill knife as a butchering tool.

These flake tools were made by me and given to a professional butcher to use in his work. The subsequent edge damage on the tools was measured and correlated with the types of job the flakes had been used for. Verdict – competent butchery tools giving the sausages an extra crunch.

For more information read:

Clarke, A 1989 ‘The Skaill knife as a butchery tool’, Lithics 10, 16-27

Clarke, A 2006 Stone Tools and thePrehistory of the Northern Isles, BAR 406