The Neolithic Barnhouse was discovered in 1984 by Colin Richards. Excavations were conducted between 1986 and 1991, over time revealing the base courses of at least 15 houses. The houses have similarities to those of the early phase of the better-known settlement at Skara Brae in that they have central hearths, beds built against the walls and stone dressers, but differ in that the houses seem to have been free-standing. The settlement dates back to circa 3000 BC.
Pottery of the grooved ware type was found, as at the Stones of Stenness and Skara Brae. Flint and stone tools were found, as well as a piece of pitchstone thought to have come from the Isle of Arran.
The largest of the original buildings was House 2. It was double-sized, featuring a higher building standard than the other houses and unlike the others (rebuilt up to five times) seems to have remained in use throughout the inhabited period of the settlement. The houses were clustered around a central open area which was divided into areas for making pottery and the working of flint, bones and hides. Evidence suggests that Barnhouse was abandoned around 2600 BC.
After Barnhouse ceased to be occupied, another structure was added, partially on top of the earlier building plans. This building had a room about 7 m square with walls 3 m thick and an entrance facing towards the north west so that the midsummer sunset shines along the passageway, with similarities to some chambered cairns. The structure was surrounded by a clay platform. The entrance through this was aligned with Maeshowe. The structure is assumed to have served as a ceremonial site rather than as a dwelling. It is thought to be closely linked with the nearby Stones of Stenness. Some of the hearth slabs from the structure may have been moved to the Stones.
This site is accessible to the public via a footpath from the Standing Stones of Stenness.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.