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Skae Frue

Cairn(s)

<b>Skae Frue</b>Posted by widefordImage © wideford
Also known as:
  • Skeldro
  • Buckan

Nearest Town:Stromness (6km SSW)
OS Ref (GB):   HY282144 / Sheet: 6
Latitude:59° 0' 39.11" N
Longitude:   3° 15' 1.06" W

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<b>Skae Frue</b>Posted by wideford <b>Skae Frue</b>Posted by wideford <b>Skae Frue</b>Posted by wideford <b>Skae Frue</b>Posted by wideford <b>Skae Frue</b>Posted by wideford <b>Skae Frue</b>Posted by wideford

Fieldnotes

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In the bottom left corner of the field containing the Rim of Bookan there is a sheep gap under the barbed wire fence against the 'standing stone' which I used as a shortcut. One of few sites that actually look better in summer, needs vegetation to bring the shapes out. Stll not photogenic, and now some big rabbit holes have appeared in the large southern exposure of material. Coming from this direction there appeared to be a slight lip at the base of the downhill side of the mound maybe a metre across. Perhaps this was a smaller version of the Ring of Bookan itself I thought - presently it is thought to be a natural mound, but antiquarians noticed the soil had been brought in from elsewhere. A natural assumption is that it is a satellite rather than of a piece with the mounds that used to lie nearer the loch. I wonder if it could be the other way about ; three burials were found around the outside of Skae Frue but not the expected one in the centre, and the Ring of Bookan had a central 'chamber' of some kind. From the way the burials were arranged the excavators also expected another to square the circle. What if a fourth individual had been due to take that place only they achieved so much in their life that they were able to have the Ring of Bookan built instead ? Of course even if there is still datable material deeper in the mound the rabbit activity could critically disturb the stratigraphy here. Skae Frue as presently exposed stands a mound of mostly earth with very few stones, mostly debris. It struck me as possible that after the excavators finished they chose to replace their diggings - there are likely signs of digging on the top, surely they would have dug straight down the middle for their expected central burial. I took the long route out, which entailed going through an 'Orkney gate' and a pair of disparate gates held together with rope that were leaning against the fence. Scraped through one (beware barbed wire round gateposts) and muscled the other. wideford Posted by wideford
19th August 2006ce

Visited this back when my digital videocamera still functioned, not a site suited to still views. The exposed mound of earth and a few stones is still above a man's height and is easily found topside of the field below the Ring of Bookan that is no great distance away. wideford Posted by wideford
1st December 2005ce

Miscellaneous

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In 1835 in excavating a mound group a tumulus with four small crude cists about two central large well-formed cists was found. This is presumably what was expected at Skae Frue. Unfortunately HY21SE 28 is only given as being "near Stromness" and the same book also uses the same phrase for Sandwick, so this probably refers to Stromness the parish rather than the town. wideford Posted by wideford
18th October 2006ce

On the Black Hill of Warbuster downhill of the Ring of Bookan, seperated by a hill-dyke and (formerly) the old road to Sandwick and Birsay (which also passed through the lower third of the Wasbister disc barrow). This is the mound excavated by Thomas, as shown by a comparison of his report with that of the first grave in the "John O' Groat's Journal". In 1848 or earlier a trench dug by Dr.Wall of Skaill from the SW to the centre of this 71½ by 10' tumulus found nothing. And on July 30th 1849 Thomas first trench of 3 or 4' across that came from the south was similarly fruitless, even when the central pit was dug out to 6' or 7' diameter. The barrow presented a very different appearance then, with "but little earth in comparison with the many large angular pieces of stone" (now it looks a partly turf-covered mound of earth with some loose stones in exposed areas and a few earthfast stones barely peeking up from the top). It was built up with topsoil from the moors about. On the second day digging through several large stones from the SE and lifting an outsize flagstone lid revealed a "parallelogram, regularly built on stone" 26x27x18" containing a skeleton. The grave lay W/E and came from 4' above the natural, 10' from the centre, with the skeleton lying diagonally and head facing west. Later in the year Thomas was called back again to aid the "Woodlark"in its explorations. Two more crouched inhumations were found in cists, one in a trench from the N to the centre and another in a cut on the east side. Though roughly the same distance from the centre as the first they were much cruder burials and came from much further up within the mound, 6-7' above the natural, only about a foot below the mound top. A fourth burial was expected to be somewhere on the W, but all the debris from their excavations having been dumped there they consequently didn't have enough time left to look for it. wideford Posted by wideford
24th August 2006ce

RCAHMS NMRS no. HY21SE 8 at HY 2824 1440 was excavated by Captain Petrie. The 70' diameter 10' high mound contained three crouched inhumations but no grave goods. These burials appear to have been in the common practice of the transformation of natural mounds for funerary use. His dig found nothing in the centre, leading to speculation that a fourth burial had been missed that would have completed a circle. Last century antiquarians said that the soil was topsoil from elsewhere (the Ring of Bookan just up the hillside?). wideford Posted by wideford
1st December 2005ce
Edited 24th August 2006ce