The remains of the pot were found at the Ness of Brodgar in Orkney and although they might not seem very impressive they are important, archaeologists say.

Similar examples of pottery have been found near Stonehenge and in Dorset. This discovery was made by a volunteer working at the excavation at the site. Claire Copper, recently and MPhil at the University of Bradford and her supervisor Dr Alex Gibson identified the item, and site director Nick Card said that the discovery is very exciting for archaeologists. He said that although the initial name of the pot, i.e. incense pot, was invented by Victorian antiquaries because they thought the shape of the pot was perfect for holding incense, recent analysis of the residues in the pots found have not confirmed that theory. Perhaps they were special cups for ceremonies, probably burial ceremonies or cremations, as they seem to be associated with the disposal of bodies.

The site of Ness of Brodgar, near the Ring of Brodgar standing stones, has yielded various discoveries since 2002, such as Neolithic buildings, artwork, pottery, animal bones and stone tools. Last week, archaeologists found Neolithic markings into a stone that they hadn’t seen for years, but were revealed as sunlight lit up the rock, something they believe might have been made deliberately.

Excavations at the site are led by the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and supported by Ness of Brodgar Trust.