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Mine Howe

Burial Chamber

<b>Mine Howe</b>Posted by stewartbImage © Stewart L Robotham
Also known as:
  • Mami Howe
  • Minehowe
  • Moan Howie
  • Stoney Howe

Nearest Town:Kirkwall (7km WNW)
OS Ref (GB):   HY512061 / Sheets: 6, 7
Latitude:58° 56' 22.46" N
Longitude:   2° 50' 52.84" W

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News

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Second Mine Howe burial

Sigurd's report http://www.orkneyjar.com/archaeology/minehoweburial2005.htm
(extension for burial recording was granted).
wideford Posted by wideford
28th August 2005ce
Edited 5th September 2005ce

Body Found Beneath Workshop


More at http://www.theherald.co.uk/news/21875.html

The body of an Iron Age woman in her early twenties has been excavated from beneath a jewellery workshop at Minehowe... continues...
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
16th August 2004ce
Edited 17th August 2004ce

Metalworking And Mystery At Minehowe

The latest four week archaeological excavation at Minehowe in Tankerness came to an end last week - but although it confirmed the extent and importance of metalworking around the enigmatic Iron Age site, it has again left the experts with as many questions as answers.

http://www.orkneyjar.com/archaeology/minehowe2003.htm
Posted by BrigantesNation
14th September 2003ce
Edited 12th November 2003ce

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Fieldnotes

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Visited 8.6.12

This is a strange old place.

We parked in the car park and myself and Dafydd walked into the cabin which acts as a ‘visitor centre’. There wasn’t much to see other than a series of press cuttings attached to notice boards and a small tray of ‘finds’. It certainly doesn’t have the ‘polish’ of the other Orkney sites you have to pay to visit. No guidebook here.
The girl behind the desk was pleasant enough but seemed rather bored.

We picked up our hard hats and headed across the field towards the burial chamber.

The first thing you come to is a fenced off dug out area which shows a section of the original ditch which surrounded the chamber, although this had started to become overgrown.
It is a bit of an eye opener to see how deep and wide these ditches were.

We then walked up to what looks like an old fashioned out-house but which in fact is the protected entranceway into the tomb.

The steps were wet and steep. Water dripped down through the stone passageway.
I have never been to a site like this before – it reminded me more of a cave than a burial chamber. It didn’t have the ‘finish’ of all the other Orkney sites I had visited.
There is a handrail to help you down the steps with strip lighting attached. It is easier to go down backwards.

Half way down the steps is a small side chamber on your right.

We worked our way down to the bottom where there is an extra deep step onto the bottom.
Looking up from the bottom it again reminded me of being in a cave.

Now Dafydd has been in many burial chambers in his 4 years and has always appeared ‘at home’ – however narrow, deep or dark they are.
For the first time ever he said to me ‘I don’t like it in here’ and wanted to get out.
We headed back up the steps and I took him back to the car.
I returned on my own to go down again – it is an odd feeling being alone in the chamber looking up the dark, wet narrow steps with only the sound of dripping water for company.

I remember watching a Time Team special when Tony Robinson was stood in exactly the same place and said he felt ‘uneasy’ and was quick to leave.
I can’t say I felt any ‘bad vibes’ but it did ‘feel’ different from other burial chambers I have visited.

I returned my hard hat and jumped over the gate to visit the Time Team reconstruction in the next field. It is fenced off so I guess they don’t actually want people to go inside – but there you go. There was certainly no one around to stop me!
The Time Team effort is about a quarter scale and is completely dry.
In fact this ‘tomb’ has a better finish to it than the rough and ready real one.

I would say Mine Howe is a ‘must see’ as it is so different to the other burial tombs on Orkney (or elsewhere for that matter).
There isn’t a massive amount to see and the whole site is a bit ‘rough and ready’ but worth a visit nonetheless.
Posted by CARL
17th July 2012ce

The stonework on the vertical shaft is not unlike the well structures at Broch of Gurness and Hillock of Burroghston sites, providing footing through laterally protruding flattish rocks It could be that some of these shafts served a double purpose for their constructors of water supply and a hiding place. C Michael Hogan Posted by C Michael Hogan
9th October 2007ce

Visited 3rd week September 2004. Spent a long time chatting with the 'officious-looking' woman ... in fact she is a relation of the original discoverer, and has very much comitted herself to the future of the site. (Recalls several visits to the Rollright Stones, also privately managed, and with a refressing lack of state care paraphenalia).

Had a good 20 minutes with a borrowed torch scouring the walls for graffiti or signs of stoneworking. There are some pecks along some of the steps, indicating they were purposfully shaped or split, and the bottom step seems to have a deliberately chosed ripple-marked slab. Didn't find a single scratch or significant step wear, almost as if the site had hardly been used.

The upper steps have toe-spaces, and are more like a stone step-ladder. The base of the chamber is a huge flat slab (bedrock?), but which perhapse could be inspected by careful excavation down one side, as it looks impossible to lift being a supporting structure for the walling.

The site is certainly un-burial chamber like, more a sort of souterrain? It has a feeling of industrial purposfulness - one would have expected more precisely-placed stonework if it were a tomb.

The 2005 excavations should provide more fascinating information.
Tim Bucktoo Posted by Tim Bucktoo
26th September 2004ce
Edited 26th September 2004ce

Took the tour today and heard about work on trench G. In part of it they found a very crude stone floor against the ditch. In one corner they found a circular arrangement of upright slabs in which was a baby burial (made me think of the stones downslope of the Long Howe cist, except that is Bronze Age, merely a coincidence). They removed it to search for further structures but regretfully found none. wideford Posted by wideford
26th August 2004ce

On August 10th I had arrived at Mine Howe as the diggers were coming back from lunch and finally saw in trench E the ovoid structure found at the end of last year's dig, the neat blocks of an arc of wall at the 'back' and a few upright slabs dividing the 'front'. This was mostly used for the working of copper and copper alloy, with a hearth and a rather small furnce, and may never have stood any higher. It is behind the wall, fairly high up, that the flags were found that lay over the female skeleton.
A new area of the dig alongside being opened up is a long wedge, several metres long and several feet deep at its far end, in which there were only a few stones as yet. I later found out that this was a sounding that had revealed a former slope between the Mine Howe ditch and the site huts which had been filled with a midden consisting of bones and pottery fragments. Carinated pot on the site has pushed the date back to the end of the Early Iron Age.
The next day, having taken my camera this time, they were still having their lunch in front of the site huts. As I headed towards the diggings an officious woman strode out of the custodian's office and demanded to know what I was doing. Orcadian I thought, but definitely not a native or a blender. So I explained that I wasn't going onto the excavation, merely taking photos. Did I have permission she asked. Do I need it I said. This stumped her. Re-phrased my query twice and still no answer. So I turned to the diggers and asked them (bellowed rather, I must admit !). Either they couldn't understand me or they were simply flummoxed. From my two seasons on a dig I do know that there isn't usually a problem with taking photos except that sometimes technically copyright belongs with the excavators. Finished sites under ownership may have such a policy but it will be prominently displayed. Took my pictures but felt they would have been better the previous day, somehow an incorrect perspective to represent the structure's features fully. When I went back on the open day Jane Downes informed me that photograph taking is allowed but I am not allowed to post them to the Web.
At the top of the mound, away from the exposed ditch, to the right of the Mine Howe 'entrance' and a little beyond the main current excavation, is a smaa digging where I see many little round white pegs in a low square box of stone that looks like a metalworking hearth from the deposits inside - this is another rarity for the site, a miniature iron smelting furnace. It is a very fine structure that I hope you will eventually see on The Orcadian and Orkneyjar sites.
Fine recording of the dig will basically come to a full stop on Thursday, with mostly clearing up the next day.
wideford Posted by wideford
17th August 2004ce
Edited 27th August 2004ce

Phone in advance to make sure there's some one there. The hardhats provided are a good idea, as is the removal of backpacks, as it's very steep, with many chances to bang your head or snag your bag.

The difference in the quality of the corbelling between here and the likes of Wideford or Ibister is quite evident.

There's lots of information in the cabin, much of which relates to the 'Time Team' programme.

It didn't feel like a burial chamber.
Hob Posted by Hob
26th June 2004ce

Head out to the airport and past it you will come to the Mine Howe site on the left. Little to be seen on the surface apart from where they have exposed a section of ditch, above which lies the entrance to the famous bit. Not recommended for those prone to bad backs if my experience is anything to go by. To get in you have to go down a steel ladder. It isn't as deep as the impression you will have gained from the literature - or maybe my spatial perceptions are awry. A good place for digital camera and flash. Mighty fine. If you don't fancy the climb down there is a truncated version close by on another hillock, less sense of adventure but only a few steps down to the floor. (Not much further along the Deerness Road, at a place where it narrows and there is sea on either side, you will find Dingieshowe Broch. And about the same in the opposite direction at Campston is Veltikelday Broch.

At the west end of Stem Howe, one section of the dogleg aligns with the findspot of several thick-bodied clay urns at Breck Farm (HY50NW13), clipping the corner of what is presently believed to be the site of the former chapel, and the other section directs itself to a point between Long Howe and Mine Howe. From Round Howe you look to Long Howe, continue through Mine Howe and you would come to Breck Farm. So I would posit the farm as the settlement to which the other sites 'belong' .
wideford Posted by wideford
28th January 2004ce
Edited 26th June 2007ce

Minehowe is truly one of the gems in Orkney's archaeological crown. This is a very strange place and, whatever else you do, don't miss it when you're on Orkney.

The site was first discovered in 1946 but was quickly closed off to stop farm stock falling into it. Unfortunately, the 'many stone tools' discovered have disappeared along with any skeletal remains. It would be nice to think that these might turn up at some stage so that the site could be put into a firmer context.
Posted by stewartb
25th March 2003ce

Miscellaneous

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In 1880 there is a reference to the close proximty to Mine Howe of "Lang Howe, Round Howe, Stoney Howe, Stem Howe and Chapel", from which I take Stoney Howe to be the burnt mound near Breck wideford Posted by wideford
4th August 2010ce

Mine Howe most likely an antiquarian's translation as mami is from O.N. malmr 'metal ore'.
Presenting a 1946 RCAMS report on the trial excavations (in The Orkney Miscellany) Marwick gives Moan Howie as the local name, moan meaning 'marsh'.
wideford Posted by wideford
28th August 2005ce
Edited 7th September 2005ce

Caroline Wickham-Jones today on Radio Orkney talked of the discovery of Mesolithic tools and a small cairn that had probable postholes beneath it, speculating on the possibility of a Mesolithic settlement hereabouts. Though the only place mentioned was Mine Howe the fact that a Bronze Age date for the postholes needed to be ruled out makes me wonder if this is not actually a reference to work on the cist at Long Howe. Caroline Wickham-Jones being a Mesolithic specialist looked forward to the prospect of a settlement of that date finally being found in Orkney (at one time people were assumed to have only arrived here in the Neolithic) and further geophysics will take place there in the coming weeks to obtain better definition on the various splodges previously 'seen', which could represent evidence for windbrakes etc. wideford Posted by wideford
31st August 2004ce

On Radio Orkney today the archaeologist working the dig at the Knowe of Skea in Westray said that the burials there, mostly of children, are also coming from areas of copper and copper alloy working. wideford Posted by wideford
30th August 2004ce
Edited 30th August 2004ce

Trying to find out why Round Howe is demoted to "pseudo-broch" I find archaeologist Nick Card in 2002 saying that so few artefacts had been retrieved from that season's excavation that it could be that objects from this had been deposited at Mine Howe, explaining why so many items by contrast turned up there. wideford Posted by wideford
14th April 2004ce

Links

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Official publication


FOAT page with link to order form for splendid A4 booklet with mucho photographios 2000-2005
wideford Posted by wideford
20th August 2006ce

Mine Howe August 18th 2005


Sigurd's latest with photograph of what is now known (at least for now) to be Middle Iron Age rather than LIA metalworking house
wideford Posted by wideford
19th August 2005ce

Orkney College


Aerial photo of Mine Howe locale.
wideford Posted by wideford
3rd March 2004ce
Edited 4th March 2004ce

Orkneyjar


Heres a good link for those wanting to find out more about the excavation of the mysterious 29 steps.
notjamesbond Posted by notjamesbond
2nd June 2003ce

Liminae


Posted by stewartb
25th March 2003ce