The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian


Chambered Cairn

Fieldnotes's quite astonishing!
It is a shame it's had to be housed in this way, but to preserve its wonders, definitely worth it. A large stone shed with metal and skylighted roof from which a series of walkways take you over the tomb, which is simply HUGE! A great lozenge shaped heap of stones and rubble, carefully corbelled at an angle on the outside walls, thick rubble and then through the middle a passageway 23ms long, yes - 23 of your earth metres! - with at least 12 pairs of stalls, some with little stone beds. Like all the other tombs on Orkney, the quality of the masonry is precise and in places, painstaking. Each stone marking out a stall is about 5 or 6 feet high and neatly fits into the passage walls.

This is easily one of the finest, grandest pieces of neolithic engineering I've ever seen. Certainly as impressive as Maeshowe. It feels like a temple.

We wondered 'why so big?', 'why here?' and not least 'how on earth...!?' We mused on it's
usage and wondered if as time had gone on, the bones of the dead had been moved over the centuries further down the passageway through successive stalls into the tomb, like a journey, until the bones reach the very end head stone, after which, that person becomes a fully-fledged 'ancestor'.

The 'why here?' question was more easily answered as we looked around for a place to picnic out of the wind by the cliffs. The tomb is built right on the shoreline, next to the flat sandstone rocks which form the water's edge, which chip and flake and can be quarried easily. To build a tomb of that magnitude, it's easier if access to the thousands of tons of building material is near at hand. And so it is. You can almost see where the stones were cut from.
Jane Posted by Jane
30th June 2004ce
Edited 30th June 2004ce

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