|"Anderson's Guide to Orkney" of 1884 refers to excavations on Milldam Farm in Deerness in the summer of 1861, and the "Orkney Herald" of June 11th 1861 gives more detail for these. Though the newspaper does not name the site it does say it is in Deerness. Which is confusing as the only place of that name in the parish of St Andrew's & Deerness is in St Andrew's, where there is a Millbrae site with two burnt mounds recorded, the same number as the Milldam barrows. So I was delighted to find that there is a mill dam behind Greentoft farm and hypothesise that there has been a name change between 1861 and 1880. Petrie is on record as having excavated five cists from within a barrow near Warthill in 1861. Though this is less than the eleven in the paper, he only saw three himself and might only have sketched those he knew the location of. Or they are from the second of the two barrows. It has been decided that the Warthill barrow is now the large mound fragment on the Ward's southern spur at 75' Ordnance Datum, between the reservoir and Seatter farm HY50NE 10 at HY56760717. There is another mound on the Ward, HY50NE 7 at HY 5689 0739 at the highest point in Deerness (85' OD). Seems strange to me that this is ruled out as a burnt mound precisely because it contains burnt earth and stones, but there you go. This supposed varda 'beacon' is aligned E/W and measures 23 x 14 x 2m. So on to the original reports.
Anderson sums it up as the excavation of probably Iron Age ruins (Greentoft= green-steethe 'site of old buildings') in the slope of a low hill on top of which were barrows containing cists with burnt bones "and clay urns outside these". Petrie started off investigating traces below the surface of a large settlement accompanied by stone vessels similar to those found in brochs. There were two barrows on top of the low hill, and while extracting clay from one of these the tenant farmer found many cists in assorted sizes. They contained burnt bones in quantity, and outside the cists more in a couple of "crudely fashioned clay urns". One fell apart on lifting, the other being too fragile measured in situ 17" deep and 12" wide diminishing to 6" [similar to the dimensions of the Howan Blo cavity], the average thickness 5/8 of an inch. Altogether the barrow held eleven cists. One near the centre, described as level with the surface, had its crude coverstone topped by a stone block some 5' by 4' by 7" thick ! The flag sides were neatly fitted together. The other cists. not as well formed, surrounded this cist but with their bottoms level with the central one's top. Petrie only saw three in the west side of the mound. The largest of those he saw, three foot square and about 2¼' deep, held another some one foot square which contained burnt bone. The second, adjoining cist, was narrower and the third smaller yet. Both of these also contained burnt human bone, and shingle and loose stones surrounded them both [the Howan Blo cist had a floor of loose stone].
Posted by wideford
9th January 2014ce
wideford's TMA Blog
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