Saturday, 14 May 2011

Maeshowe - Wow!

Another "must see" in Orkney is Maeshowe. Unlike everywhere else we went, entry is by pre-booked guided tour and photography inside the mound is forbidden. So if you want more  pictures try here.

Note that cloudless blue sky!

Inside is a large central room covered in graffiti  from when the Vikings broke in through the roof to take shelter. The runes are impressive in their quantity if not in the quality of what they convey. As much of it would be at home on a modern bus shelter it is proof that human nature isn't much changed!

The guide was able to show us the famous viking cave art - is the animal a lion?, a dragon? or even a cow? Hard to say. Orkney silversmiths though label it a dragon as dragons sell better than cows! One theory is it is a wolf, representing Fenrir.

There is some carving that is believed to be neolithic which she pointed out to us. There is no lighting in the mound so it is just ambient light from the doorway and  a torch to highlight some of the more famous runic carvings - such as "Tholfir Kolbeinsson carved these runes very high up."   I did say this was bus shelter stuff!  Another says modestly "These runes were carved by the man who is the best carver of runes in the Western Oceans" You can just imagine how disappointed the runic experts must have been when they originally translated them.

The entry tunnel is orientated in such a way that the rays on the sun at sunset on the winter solstice will illuminate the chamber.  The effect is also seen for a period either side of the solstice. Tune in  here  in December for a live web feed.

No pictures inside Maeshowe then but plenty from the other chambered tombs.

This is Unstan. From the outside it looks very similar but it is much much smaller with fabulous views across the  Loch of Stenness

Inside, the circular interior ( like Maeshowe), is divided by flagsones into stalls. Several skeletons were exhumed during excavation.
There is also a  small side chamber where two crouched burials were found.

This tomb is much better lit than others thanks to the thoughtfully fitted skylight in the ( modern) roof.
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