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TITLE
Ground Plan of the Chambers of Maeshowe
EXTERNAL ID
QZP40_2471_1862-1864_P248C
PLACENAME
Maeshowe
DATE OF IMAGE
1864
PERIOD
1860s
CREATOR
W & A K Johnston
SOURCE
Highland Libraries
ASSET ID
31543
KEYWORDS
mounds
burial
rituals
chambered cairns
archaeology
zoomable

Maeshowe is a Neolithic burial chamber on the Orkney mainland. The mound has a diameter of 115ft (35m) at the base and is over 24ft (7m) high. It was built before 2700BC from stone slabs, some of which weigh up to 30 tons. The purpose of the tomb is unclear. It is unlikely that bones were stored there as only a few fragments were discovered when the mound was excavated. The alignment of the tomb may have served as a calendar. At sunset on midwinter's day the light shines straight down the entrance passage and onto a small area on the rear wall. In the far north, it was important to know when the days were about to lengthen.

Maeshowe fell into disuse but was reopened by Vikings in the 12th century. Evidence of their visit can be seen in the runic graffiti carved on the walls. The carvings include 'Ottarfila carved these runes' and 'Haermund Hardaxe carved these runes'. The graffiti also suggest that the Vikings removed treasure from the mound. The Vikings' visit caused the roof to collapse and the mound was not reopened until the 19th century.

This illustration is from vol.V of the 'Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland', 1860-1862

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Ground Plan of the Chambers of Maeshowe

1860s

mounds; burial; rituals; chambered cairns; archaeology; zoomable

Highland Libraries

Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (maps)

Maeshowe is a Neolithic burial chamber on the Orkney mainland. The mound has a diameter of 115ft (35m) at the base and is over 24ft (7m) high. It was built before 2700BC from stone slabs, some of which weigh up to 30 tons. The purpose of the tomb is unclear. It is unlikely that bones were stored there as only a few fragments were discovered when the mound was excavated. The alignment of the tomb may have served as a calendar. At sunset on midwinter's day the light shines straight down the entrance passage and onto a small area on the rear wall. In the far north, it was important to know when the days were about to lengthen.<br /> <br /> Maeshowe fell into disuse but was reopened by Vikings in the 12th century. Evidence of their visit can be seen in the runic graffiti carved on the walls. The carvings include 'Ottarfila carved these runes' and 'Haermund Hardaxe carved these runes'. The graffiti also suggest that the Vikings removed treasure from the mound. The Vikings' visit caused the roof to collapse and the mound was not reopened until the 19th century.<br /> <br /> This illustration is from vol.V of the 'Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland', 1860-1862