A fingerprint left by a potter 5,000 years ago has been found at Ness of Brodgar in Orkney.
The discovery was made at the archaeology site, where experts have been excavating for a number of years.
It is the first fingerprint to be found there.
The ancient fingerprint was found on a pot sherd from a huge collection of items recovered from the site- which is the largest set of late Neolithic Grooved Ware pottery in the UK.
Archaeologists have been excavating at the complex of ancient buildings in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site since 2006.
It is thought that 5,000 years ago an Orkney potter sat down and created a clay vessel, pressed a finger into the wet surface, and left an imprint.
Imaging technology was used to confirm the dating of this latest find, with the fingerprint being noted by ceramics specialist Roy Towers.
The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Archaeology Institute is leading the excavation.
How was the fingerprint dated?
Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) was used to confirm the suspected print.
This works by taking multiple photographs of a subject, each with a different but controlled light source.
These are then combined using computer software to create a highly detailed model of the object that can be lit from all angles and closely examined on screen.
The resulting images often revealed surface details that are not visible during a normal examination.
RTI work by Jan Blatchford confirmed and recorded the only fingerprint encountered at the Ness of Brodgar.
What next for the fingerprint?
Ancient fingerprints are not an uncommon find when excavating historic sites due to the widespread use of clay in history.
It is hoped, funds permitting, that further analysis can be done of this fingerprint to reveal the gender and age of the potter.
Excavation director Nick Card revealed how important the discovery is.
He said: “Working on such as high-status site as the Ness of Brodgar, with its beautiful buildings and stunning range of artefacts, it can be all too easy to forget about the people behind this incredible complex.
“But this discovery really does bring these people back into focus.
“Although finding the fingerprint impression won’t hugely impact our work, it does give us a highly personal, poignant connection to the people of Neolithic Orkney, 5,000 years ago.”
What is the Ness of Brodgar?
The Ness of Brodgar is a historically significant archaeological site, which covers 6.2 acres between the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness in Orkney.
It has been the subject of digs and excavations since 2003, and has provided archaeologists with a number of big finds.
This includes decorated stone slabs, a thick stone wall with foundations, and a large building described as a Neolithic temple.
The earliest structure was built between 3,300 and 3,2000 BCE.
It starred in a BBC Scotland documentary in 2016 called Britain’s Ancient Capital: Secrets of Orkney, presented by Neil Oliver and Chris Packham.
To find out more about the Ness of Brodgar excavation, visit here.