Scotland hails 'Orkney Venus'
5,000-year-old carving found in Orkney Islands hailed as oldest face in Scotland by archaeologists
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A 5,000-year-old carving discovered in the Orkney Islands is being hailed as the oldest face in Scotland by archaeologists.
The 3.5cm by 3cm sandstone object has been dubbed the 'Orkney Venus' after being identified as a representation of a Neolithic woman.
The discovery, made in the Links of Noltland on Westray, has been described as a find of "astonishing rarity", with only two others like it ever found on the British mainland.
"This is a find of tremendous importance - representations of people from this period are incredibly unusual in Britain," said Scottish culture minister Michael Russell.
"What we are seeing here is the earliest known human face in Scotland.
"It once again emphasises the tremendous importance of Orkney's archaeology and also of the Links of Noltland site."
Flat with a round head on top of a lozenge-shaped body, the carving appears to show a face with heavy brows, two dots for eyes and an oblong for a nose.
Scratches on the skull are believed to be hair a pair of circles breasts and crossed markings on the reverse a woman's clothing.
Richard Strachan, senior archaeologist with the excavation team, described the moment of discovery: "It was one of those Eureka moments, none of the archaeology team have seen anything like it before, it's incredibly exciting.
"The discovery of a Neolithic carving of a human was quite a moment for everyone to share in."
Prehistoric carvings from elsewhere in Europe dating from a similar time period are known as Venus figures due to their portrayal of women with rounded heads, large breasts and exaggerated hips.
It is thought the figurine would have been used for ceremonial purposes as it is in remarkably good condition.