Thursday, January 1, 2015

Out with the new, in with the old!

I had a hard time deciding what nugget from my current genealogy research would be appropriate for sharing on New Years Day. After all, today is about new beginnings. Genealogy, by definition, is about the past.
         Then I realized that one of the newest discoveries is about the oldest ancestors.
          Let me explain. My mother's mother was a Tullock, and like most of the world's Tullocks, her family came from the Orkney Islands on the north coast of Scotland. On the Orkney Islands, Tullocks are more common than all the Smiths and Joneses put together.
           The Orkneys also have some of the best neolithic ruins in the world. In addition to standing stones older than Stonehenge, the islands boast Skara Brae, the oldest dwellings in Europe. Uncovered in a storm in the 1850s, Skara Brae is a village of eight interconnected homes from the stone age. Although they were constructed more than 3,000 years before Christ, they're not rugged caves. On the contrary, they feature stone hearths, stone shelves, stone beds, even carved stone drainage tiles. Back when the wheel was being discovered in Mesopotamia and the Egyptians were first starting to use papyrus, my Tullock ancestors were living in a village of connected houses so they didn't have to go outside in the winter.
            So, what's new about that, you ask?
            Well, since I visited the islands in 2004, archeologists have discovered the biggest ruin yet. When I was there I drove a half mile down a country road between the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar. I didn't notice anything but sheep grazing among the heather. But scientists already knew there was an archaeological goldmine under my feet. The first hint came from a high tech geophysical survey in 2002. The dig started a few years later. In 2008 they uncovered a temple on the scale of the Acropolis in Greece, but it was built 2,500 years earlier!
            Check out the details at this National Geographic site.
             What's old really is new again!
             Happy New Year!

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