Maeshowe Chambered Cairn, Orkney.

This evening, the focus of my blog is one of Scotland’s important prehistoric sites, namely Maeshowe on Orkney.

Orkney is an archipelago off the northeastern coast of Scotland which is home to one of the richest surviving Neolithic (New Stone Age) landscapes in N.W. Europe. Here can be found impressive domestic and ritual monuments which afford exceptional insights into the society, skills and spiritual beliefs of the people who built them

Maeshowe dates from around 3000 BC and hence is some 5000 years old. It is considered the finest chambered tomb in north-west Europe. To mind there are strong similarities with Newgrange in Ireland. I am also mindful of the social organisation in those far off days which must have been capable of marshalling a huge workforce at a time when the early people were living close to the environment and were restricted to just stone tools and, possibly, no wheeled vehicles.

In essence Maeshowe consists of a grassy mound (35m across and 7m high) situated on a large circular platform surrounded by a ditch beyond which is an earthen bank.

Incredibly, the interior has remained watertight over the millennia. No photographs of the interior are permitted. Inside the mound is a small room measuring 4.7m in diameter  and 4.5 high, probably intended for burials.

Like many other monuments from this era (incl Stonehenge), the passageway is aligned with sunset three weeks before and after Dec 21st (the shortest day).

From the runic carvings in the interior, it is evident that Vikings penetrated the interior in the middle of the 12th century AD. The Norsemen called the site Orkahaugr.

Maes Howe, Orkney, Scotland.

The interior is accessed via a 10m long stone passage (below).

Entrance passage

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