Maeshowe Neolithic Site, Orkney
This evening, the focus of my blog is one of Scotland’s top prehistoric sites, namely Maeshowe on Orkney.
The structure dates from the Neolithic era (New Stone Age), around 3000BC and hence is some 5000 years old. Maeshowe 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 a 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, probabaly 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 12thcentury AD. The Norsemen called the site Orkahaugr.
The interior is accessed via a 10m long stone passage (below).