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


Chambered Cairn


NMRS record no. HY32NW 15 is a chambered cairn one nautical mile from Howana Gruna. But once it was thought to be a broch and even referred to as the West Broch of Burgar and shown on the first O.S. maps as broughs, these supposedly paired brochs compared to those on Burray. According to P.O.A.S. VII, in 1928, some years before a lot of the stone had been acquired for farm buildings. Within the mound there had been (or believed to have been) the usual "sailor's graves" {might the Burgar hoard have actually come from here ? It would have been a good ploy for a suspicious farmer to mislead treasure seekers by saying it came from the broch). On the aforesaid maps a thick-walled square structure is shown a little beyond the mound on the coastal side of the fieldwall. The Castle legend is displaced offshore on more modern maps Presumably it is only coincidence that the long cairn on the Head of Work also has a castle at the cliff-edge nearby, as what can be seen there nowadays looks essentially natural.
A 1935 report in the 1946 RCAMS Inventory describes a 52' grassy mound with a flat hollow 37' wide bounded by a ridge 2-5' high having a small section of possible inner wall face exposed at the north. Two E/W slabs near the centre projecting 2'8" from present ground surface were compared to the divisional slabs at the Unstan Tomb. Two slabs of 6' and 4' a yard to their east, edgeset, were comparable to Unstan's side entry if they were in situ, possibly including a further stone in the putative passage.
The presently exposed chamber according to Davidson and Henshall consists of compartments 1.8 and 2m long. Their Orkney volume adds another piece at the northern end blocking this chamber where an axial passage might have been once , the previously mentioned (angled) wall face which they think most likely to be exposed cairn material only. The two presumed displaced slabs (aligned N/S) they assume to have simply been part of the chamber [though these are distincty out of proportion with other elements of the chamber, surely]. According to Davidson and Henshall the cairn has a definite edge to give it a size of 17.5m (i.e. over a metre greater than previously reported - oblate?), and stands to 1.9m max. at the SE. The cairn's composition is reported as substantial flat stones of a very friable nature.
As described by them this NE/SW chamber consists front to back of :-
Slab pair (outer) are 0.65m apart 20cm thick, projecting 0.2 & 0.5m, with the first the only slab not 0.6m wide. Slab pair (inner) 0.6m higher up are 0.55m apart (1935 1'4" from a different place ?) 5 cm thick, projecting 0.8m but apparently once taller - that at the SE presently has its top level with the surviving mound top. The barely projecting back slab is 10cm thick and 0.2m above the outer pair.
wideford Posted by wideford
12th December 2007ce

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