The Modern Antiquarian. Ancient Sites, Stone Circles, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic Mysteries

Miscellaneous Posts by wideford

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Ness of Woodwick (Broch)

Ness of Woodwick broch, NMRS record no. HY42SW 9, aka the Craig of Ritten/Rittin. The 'crag' is an impressive mound with dimensions estimated as 50-60 feet across with an inner diameter about half that - in 1946 at the seaward side to the NE about 20' of outer wall (thought to be the outer wall-face) could be observed. No midden was seen. Twenty years later most of this outer wall was overgrown like the rest of the mound. Hedges notes that the rocky outcrops and sand below would be a good place to haul up a boat.

Redland South (Chambered Cairn)

Redland South cairn, NMRS record no. HY32SE 17, was at least 27m long by 12m wide. Aligned ESE/WSW it sat on the edge of a shallow NW/SE plateau ~83m x ~15m, a natural dip on the NW side marked by an old track. A long stalled chamber is marked by eight protruding stumps. The compartments were most likely some 1.65m, though there was a longer compartment or two shorter ones between slabs 6 and 7 and the end compartment was also somewhat longer. The Redland Standing Stone and its partner formed a stall 4.1m from one end of the chamber [either the other stalls also once stood to a man's height and they are much reduced or there was a considerable variation in height, though what comes to my mind is Weyland Smithy]. It is thought possible that the cairn continued beyond the NE cairn material. Also there is a 1.3m long 0.4m high orthostat SE of the chamber not following its axis.

Seven Knowes (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

Seven Knowes, HY32SE 8, is a compact group of bowl barrows set in boggy ground. They are on what the record calls a low plateau, and range in diameter from 12 to 35ft and in height from 18 ins to 2ft 6 ins. Excavations of three in close proximity to one another in 1998 found two of them had centrally placed cremation cists , these being evenly spaced around the mounds and taking the form of rounded pits dug into the hillwash that also covered them. Crude stone tools were found on top of the cists and also on the kerbs of these mounds. The two best surviving mounds, the largest, and most of the smaller ones have been dug before

Redland South (Chambered Cairn)

RCAMS 273 the Redland standing stone was, and stil is, the most visible piece of Redland South's stonework. Until the 1880s, when a farmer smashed it to stop livestock using it as a rubbing stone, it stood about 2m high. The irregularly topped stump is described in the late 1920s as 12 or 16" high by 3' broad by 6" thick, and aligned ENE/WSW like Staneyhill. At that time the 4'8" upper fragment, tapering to a 2'7" squared off top, lay where it fell. In 1929 the ground around the stone was described as irregular with some small earthfast stones with the smaller stump of another standing stone mere feet away. So the excavation we see here is 1930 or later. More to follow on the cairn proper when I've sifted through photos from three visits. Cairn is in two fields on your right as you go from the Evie road to the Broch of Gurness

Millfield (Burnt Mound / Fulacht Fia)

NMRS record no. HY50NE 41 stands over a man's height at a little over 2m high and is 50m long by 17m high. The records says that under the plough as well burnt material red stones come up too.

Chapel Knowe (Broch)

RCAHMS record no HY31NE 1 at Chapel Point, south of Burness 'burgh headland' in Firth. The name Chapel Knowe probably replaces the field-name Chapel Park [park=quoy 'enclosure]. In 1922 Mr Stevenson, the landowner, removed copious amounts of stone to build very sturdy fieldwalls, despite which the broch profile is still obvious. A draper called Turfus found in the debris an incised 40" fragment of red sandstone with a two-and-a-half inch high cloaked figure and other assorted markings. On the west side a broch wall section 14' long and 9' high was exposed, having a 2' thick secondary wall built against the face. At its south end a lintelled passage led to a corbelled mural cell with a void above that. The mound sits on a platform aligned N/S and up to 25m across according to which direction you look. Hugh Marwick, who followed up on the discovery, estimated the broch interior as only twenty feet. The archaeologists apply the Chapel Park name to a twenty metre stone spread running NW from the mound.

Howan Blo (Cist)

NMRS HY50NE 5. Here over the course of a few years Mr Aim, the farmer at Blow(e)s, came across internments near its crest in 1929 and 1932 (the record says 1933, but Callendar's article from that October refers the discovery to "January last"). On both occasions he covered the finds until the archaeologists came. In early March 1929 whilst digging into the clay his plough lifted the coverstone of a short cist containing an eight inch high dolomitic steatite urn and potsherds from a small urn. The cist was hollowed into a circular depresssion 4-5" deep in the centre, floored with stone flakes averaging some 5" square and ¼" thick. In plan it was approx. 20" by 16" with sides of bluish Orkney sandstone slabs each 18" deep and 1½" thick. There was a layer of burnt human bones 5-6" deep. After excavation the farmer put the remains back and covered the find. in January 1932 Mr Aim made another find only a few feet away. This consisted of a Bronze Age cinerary urn and fragments of a smaller one, both of clay. The large urn held bone ash and potsherds. When the archaeologists came and did their excavation they found an urn-shaped cavity under a coverstone just five feet away, though it had never held an urn. It measured some 15" deep and 12" wide diminishing to 5", and was almost completely filled with the dark greasy remains of bones. Though the urn passed to the museum the rest was re-buried as before.

Twi Ness (Cairn(s))

HY41NE 19 is a slightly hollowed 7mD cairn a mere point-six metres high, with a radial orthostat on the north side that might be, or have been, part of a cist.

Lower Arsdale (Carving)

The decoration is matched by that found at this year's Smerquoy dig in Firth, as shown by the excavator with a photo - so obviously the stone is still there, though the image was labelled Ersdale

Russel Howe (Cairn(s))

A 13m x 3m x 2m wall was constructed from the Rossel Howe Cairn material (HY22SW 5) some time after the Orkney Name Book of 1880 (the ONB actually places two tumuli here). During the demolition human remains were found in a cist. At the south-east end two stones, one approx 2.3x0.6 m fallen but the other approx 2.3x0.8 m still erect, are thought likely parts of a chamber.

Hourston (Crannog)

Hourston HY21NE 93 - a narrow causeway connects islet to Loch of Harray shoreline. Where it meets the shore there is an NMRS for a probable enclosure

Peterkirk (Broch)

The 1st 25" map show's Peter's Kirk (HY32NW 12 at HY33742870) on uncultivated land between the low cliff and an obtuse angle wall, west of which 'enclosure' are the legend Burial Ground and a due N/S aligned oval Cairn (apparently banked) slightly bigger than the kirk - another smaller building is shown at the edge of the southern wall segment near the corner. The stone cairn (HY32NW 16 at HY33712870) is presently described as turf-covered, about 9mD by 0.7m in height and marking the edge of a settlement mound at whose highest point the kirk is. Though in 1967 Ordnance Survey were unable to classify it, as the result of what they considered severe mutilation, in 1981 the SMR talks of what might be the concave inner face of a structural wall on the north side, formed by a row of edge-set slabs. Also on the settlement's edge, east to south-east of the kirk, are several irregularly placed erect stones. These are tentatively described as grave-markers but could be from an underlying structure [as with the broch features diggers have found at Warebeth Cemetery on occasion]. To the north-east of the site the cliff cuts through the settlement to reveal traces of prehistoric structures up to three metres in depth, described as unsurveyable by O.S. in 1967. Alongside is kitchen-midden.

Loch of Wasbister (Crannog)

NMRS record no HY33SE 13 - the 1880 Namebook confusingly names this as the loch chapel site as well as Bretta Ness, with finds of deer remains and coins and reference to possible earlier building. In 1912 "The Orcadian" tells us that this island was still connected to the west shoreline by the remains of a bridge (then a foot underwater) with a fault half-way. Later underwater features were observed where it met the shore but these are apparently buried now. A 1972 report tells us that the stepping stones start midway along the north-west side of a ?modern wall on the island and continued visibly in that direction for some thirty metres. This wall running around the island is sub-divided into two unequal enclosures, but salmonberry hides any internal remains there might be. There may be traces of sections of an earlier wall a metre or two outside this, and just above the waterline walling has been noted.

Knowe of Hunclett (Broch)

RCAHMS record no. HY42N W15 is a ten-foot high turf-covered broch mound, apparently excavated (slight depression on summit), with extensive outbuildings to the south showing as many areas of exposed stonework. Thirty metres from the tower there is a shingle beach rather than the usual rocky Rousay shore, with further archaeology in the shore banks themselves . A rough, unploughable section of the next field west continues the five-foot high broad platform on which the broch sits. An exposed inner broch wall-section a yard long and a foot high has been extrapolated to give a diameter of 30-33' (with walls at least 10-12' thick) and its platform extends about two-hundred feet from the fieldwall. The whole broch is bounded at the west by a curving ditch 3-4m wide by 2.2m deep, on whose inner lip a possible fortification is indicated by a stone wall. And an outer wall can be read from more stonework west of the ditch itself.

Oyce of Isbister (Round Barrow(s))

As NMRS record number HY31NE 14 only gives a grid reference of HY3918 perhaps this was part of a barrow cemetery with the Oyce of Isbister mounds, which are only some quarter of a mile from the mill.

In 1858 by James Muir, tenant of Isbister mill and farm, found several cists close to his house. The largest was 2'3" wide, with the SW side 5'8" long and that on the NE 4'8" long. To help prevent the ingress of water the depth was greater on the longer side (2'10" as against 2'7" max) with a half-an-inch of gravel on the level bottom. A flexed skeleton lay on its RH side at the NW end and another at the opposite end. Petrie noticed what looked to be outline traces of a large barrow in the surrounding ground. Another cist, with a similarly slanted lid and found about 5' to the SW held the skeleton of a woman face down. It was only 1'10" wide by 3' long and deep. The skull was at the ESE, a few bones near the middle and a heap of burnt ones a foot from the other end. Later a third cist a mere foot square was found 5/6' from the SE end of the second cist and had a pile of burnt bone fragments in the centre. NMRS record number HY31NE 14 only gives a grid reference of HY3918.
The Oyce of Isbister mounds (NMRS record number HY31NE 8) are only about a quarter of a mile from the mill. In 1946 apart from a grave mound these ranged from about 15' to some 21'D, with a maximum height of 3' (though there was a 6' high one [E] at HY39011810 it is most likely natural). The OS in 1966 give three as probable barrows (A at HY39021802, B at HY39001802, C at HY38981801) and three probable burnt mounds (D at HY39001808, F at HY39001811, G at HY39001813) plus the natural one (E at HY39011810). On the other hand in 1979 Hedges gives 4 small burnt mounds (on the E bank of a burn emptying into a "lagoon") 60m from twa earthen mounds lying atop slightly raised land. But I suspect his numbers come from his desire to keep the two kinds physically seperate. The largest mound, A, was 5' high. is composed of earth with small stones, and contains a cist at least 3'6" long (whose east end is missing). This was 45' across in 1946, but in 1966 the OS found its measurements to be roughly 14m E/W by 12m N/S.

Quoyelsh (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

The felsite may be significant as tools were mde from this in prehistory

Loch of Boardhouse (Standing Stone / Menhir)

On the mainland or in England there would be fewer doubters of its antiquity, we just have so many candidates to accept more than a few now! But perhaps the antiquarians thought it might be more than a standing stone, because some have seen more stones in the depression in which it sits. I assume that like the Loch of Tankerness this lochan's borders have increased since at least the Bronze Age, and there are marshy areas abouts. Stone circles aside not a few of our acknowledged standing stones have turned out to be stood on, or the remains of, cairns [e.g. Stanerandy] or tombs [e.g. Redland North]. On a small promontory a few hundred metres north of Kirbuster are the remains of a prehistoric settlement which produced Iron Age tools etc - the Knowe of Nesthouse, HY22NE 6 at HY27942568, is [IIRC] near a small 'caravan park'.

Burrian (Russland) (Broch)

When the Knoll of Burian was partly excavated in 1866 they found a large "brough", but though the rest was being laid bare the outworks were left alone. Farrer found "underground cupboards, partly beneath the floor of the main circular chamber" and three steps he thought to have been part of an (?intra-mural) staircase. A sketch and plan by George Petrie show what are interpreted as a hearth and tank in the central chamber with a built wall dividing this from a long
curving room on the north side and 3 small cells ? sleeping-quarters. Now some think it a wheelhouse, which is a round house divided into compartments by radial slabs, though.the few features have been compared to Burroughston on Shapinsay and Bu in Stromness.

Nettletar (Broch)

The Nettletar/Netlater Broch was revealed in about 1860 when the Rev.Dr.Trail excavated a large mound some 200 yards south of the manse, and hard by the present course of the Burn of Nettleton, whilst making improvements to his land. Roughly five years later local antiquarian George Petrie came to investigate. He published his observations and plans (from sketches) in an 1873 article. Later there are joint manuscripts with Sir Henry Dryden including annotated elevations. In his article Petrie mostly described what he personally saw and, strangely, nowhere gives the like of wall heights - perhaps these only came with Dryden's 1866 measurements. Modern commentators give Petrie 'stick' for things he only took from others observations or indeed never mentioned as seen by him. tIt is much to be regretted that we are missing Trail's actual notes for instance, as Petrie tells us that several important features of the broch and its adjuncts had been destroyed prior to his visit. Unfortunately Dryden had the draughtsman's eye to draw things as they should have been rather than as they presented themselves.

During the 1860s improvements the Burn of Nettleton had its course straightened. From a point on the 'upper' side of the broch a small conduit was thought to connect to a well inside the tower. This conduit passed through an oval enclosure east of the broch, though at the time Petrie only saw two walls some distance apart cut through where space had been cleared [by the broch builders or Trail isn't obvious in the text, presumably the latter] in front of the broch entrance. In the space and probably within said enclosure was a deep well, entered by several steps, covered by the time of the article. Between this vanished enclosure and the 12' thick broch wall, and a yard from the latter, Petrie saw a rough stone wall (probably concentric, gone now anyway) some 3' thick and ? 5' high. Petrie was informed that this was faced only on the inner side, and by analogy with other brochs it has been since suggested that this is upper wall debris. The conduit might stop at this point. At a point outside the south-western part of the main tower hard by this wall calcine bone fragments were found in two large fire-baked clay urns. Petrie describes their appearance as "rude" but they had carefully cut triangular flagstone covers, said covers being roughly at the same level as the broch floor. Cut into the rough wall to the north side of a line from the passage, and abutting the broch tower, he saw a three foot deep cell/compartment, which at the time of his visit was the only remaining one of several found by Trail, chiefly on this same side. The cell's entrance was only 22" wide and 2'6" high. None of these ??outbuildings were properly explored. There is dispute as to whether the broch walls survived to 6'6" or 8'6" high, but during the improvements about half of the stonework was robbed for the Glebe dykes [the field walls of the land belonging to the Manse] and by 1966 we are left with only a western arc upstanding. The broch entrance (now obliterated) is aligned approximately twenty degrees south of due east. For the first six feet its width was 2'9", at which point it reached stone door jambs and broadened out to 4' wide for the last six feet. The broch's interior has a diameter of 33'4" and Laing tells us that there was a second pavement some 18" above the first. Inside on a line with, and close to the left-hand side of, the doorway there stood a radial stone about 4'9" high and 4'6" wide, with a hole about 2 inches in diameter through it within 14" of the inner edge at roughly mid-height - close to the wall at the back of this stone a human skull was found. The plan show several arrangements of wall fragments and edgeset stones (now gone [or perhaps 'buried'] ) which Petrie thought post-dated the broch, though Hedges thinks that they could actually be contemporary with it. Within the broch tower wall three oval mural cells were roughly equidistant if you include the passage. Two chambers are describes as ruinous and the third to the south was deduced from remains. From the last nineteen steps of an intra-mural staircase ran clockwise from it, suggesting that the broch once had an upper floor. A subterranean passage near the centre of the interior led to five steps that gave access to a three foot square flag-lined rock-cut well near the interior wall - the bottom of the well lay 9' below floor level. It is now choked with debris but in Petrie's time it always held water.

On plan in looking at the outer cell remaining at the time of Petrie's notes it rather obviously cuts into the fragmentary concentric wall. So either it post-dates the broch collapse or that wall is at the very least contemporary with the cell. Could it be that the compartment is really one of the guard cells one would expect to find just inside the entrance. It survives too well to simply have been left outside the broch tower after some later re-modelling reduced the broch's diameter. So I think that the two walls are the inner and outer faces of a single wall, with the earth used as banking to shore it up. Which would give epic walls a minimum of 15' thick, similar to the East Broch of Burray which is (partly) surrounded by an earth rampart. A modern dig would be needed to give an answer to this as the two levels of interior floor surely means that the Trail/Petrie/Dryden material relates to two, perhaps more, building phases.
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Unemployed and so plenty of spare time for researching contributors' questions and queries and for making corrections. Antiquarian and naturalist. Mode of transport shanks's pony. Talent unnecessary endurance. I love brochs.

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