Maes Howe

Submitted by Owen McCafferty on Wed, 2009-11-18

This is said to be the best example of a chambered tomb in Western Europe. You will be met by the guide who gave us a very good talk on the tomb, showing us the runes which are basically Viking vandalism but important in a historic sense.

The Neolithic chambered cairn known as Maes Howe is a burial mound built of dry stones covered with turf, surrounded by an outer ditch and bank. It may have been the final resting place for a community or a family group. Obviously if this was a family group, the family must have exercised considerable influence in Orcadian society. It would seem that the mound was originally conical in shape, and its current rounded contours may be the result of early 20th century reconstruction.

The parish of Stenness, in Orkney’s West Mainland, is home to some of the county’s best-known monuments. Among these is the prehistoric chambered cairn, Maeshowe. Thought to date from around 2700BC, Maeshowe is one of the monuments that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

Maes Howe is a magnificent example of Neolithic craftsmanship and is, in the words of the distinguished archaeologist Stuart Piggott; a superlative monument that by its originality of execution is lifted out of its class into a unique position. Visitors to Maes Howe enter through a low passage which is 9 meters in length leading up a slight incline to the square main chamber. The walls of the main chamber consist of precisely fitted flat blocks of stone with enormous buttresses in each corner. There are three subsidiary chambers in the walls of the main chamber. At mid winter, the setting sun shines down the passage and shines on the back wall of the tomb.

Contact: Maes Howe Chambered Cairn Phone: 01856 761 606


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