The chambered cairn at Unstan was opened in 1884 and a number of pottery bowls of the type now known as Unstan ware were found along with four arrowheads. Two crouched skeletons were also discovered in the side cell.

Maeshowe cairn is considered to be one of the finest chambered tombs in Western Europe. The mound stands on a flattened area which is encircled by a shallow ditch, peat from the bottom of which has been carbon dated at approximately 2700 BC. The mound, which measures 35 metres in diameter and just over 7 metres high, is composed of clay and rock fragments and covers the stone built cairn. The burial chamber is reached by a passage 14 metres long and is about 4.5 metres square. Vikings raided Maeshowe in the 12th century, and left behind one of the largest collections of runic inscriptions known. Sample translations are: "A great treasure is hidden in the northwest" and "Hakon alone bore the treasure out of this mound".

The Standing Stones of Stenness is the smaller of Orkney's two stone circles and was built in the third millenium BC. Originally there were twelve stones in the circle surrounded by a rock-cut ditch and earth bank, with a single entrance way on the north side of the circle. Of the original twelve stones, only four remain, with the position of the missing stones clearly marked.

The Ring of Brodgar is the larger of the circles and originally consisted of sixty stones set six degrees apart from geographic north. The circle was carefully laid out using the 'megalithic yard' (0.829 metres) and is 125 megalithic yards (103.6 metres) in diameter. It was surrounded by a great ditch, 9 metres wide and 3 metres deep, which, like the ditch surrounding the Stones of Stenness, was cut into the bedrock. Of the original sixty stones only 36 remain, one of which is inscribed with a cross and some Norse runes which translate to the name 'Bjorn'.

Ring of Brodgar
(C) Richard Welsby

Photograph courtesy of Richard Welsby

Copyright Orknet 1996