Sunday, 29 May 2011

Where Eagles dare or die?

Still  with Orkney ( only a couple more blogs on the subject and normality will resume. If anything is normal of course)

South of the mainland on South Ronaldsay, over a couple of  WWII causeways is the Tomb of the Eagles ( Isbister Chambered Cairn) . Unlike the other tombs  we visited this one is privately owned and there is an admission charge.

On the plus side you do get a "guided tour" which is actually a very nice lady in the main building/museum who tells you all about the site and how it was discovered and excavated. Even better you are encouraged to pick up and handle some of the tools and beads that were discovered. It was a humbling experience to hold tools that were used 5000 years ago. We also learned how to bore a hole through rock with the technology then available. I'm tempted to have a go myself at a later date. Modern  reconstructions have shown it takes abut 6 hours or so.

It is  estimated to have been built around 3000 BCE, and used  over a period of some 800 years. It is about 3.5 metres high and consists of a rectangular main chamber, divided into stalls and side cells. It has been  reconstructed  in parts and re-roofed.

Over 300 sets of human remains were found here. A couple of the skulls are in the site museum and the guide explains the gene linked deformity suffered by some of the tribe members where the bones of the skull fused too soon.

As the bones were all mixed up and the skulls found separately from the rest of the bodies, the theory goes that the bodies were left in the open to be picked clean of flesh by the eagles and the excarnated bones then interred.

Talons of the white-tailed sea eagle s were found inside the tomb which gives rise to the modern  common name.  It has been mooted that the birds were the emblem of the tribe.

 It is a reasonable ( unescorted) walk from the visitor centre to the site itself which is right on the cliff top. Some of the bones were painted with ochre which was abundent locally and there is still plenty to be seen. The entrance as can be seen from the first picture is extremely low.

Previous sites we visited had low entrances but this was the lowest yet.

Bending double is not enough- You can just see the wheeled board by which you pull yourself through by a usefully placed rope or as the guide said  "a granny's skateboard"!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...