Maeshowe Chambered Cairn / Isle of Mainland ***

Region: Orkney Islands

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Maes Howe is a splendid Neolithic chambered tomb or burial monument not far from Stromness, in the Orkneys. It has been described as ‘one of the greatest architectural achievements of the prehistoric peoples of Scotland’.

Maeshowe has not been dated directly, but by association with the stone circle at Stenness nearby, and with the well known settlement site of Skara Brae on the west coast it is thought to have been erected about 3000 BC.

The mound was probably entered from the west by a passage leading to a central apartment, the walls of which ended in a beehive roof. Maeshowe barrow has also been attributed to 10th-century Norsemen; more plausibly, a band of Norsemen at one time may have used the mound for shelter, cutting a runic record of their visit on the stones and at the same time robbing the tomb of its possessions. One carving tells us that ‘Helgi was here’. Another tells us that pilgrims on their way from Norway to Jerusalem broke into the tomb.

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