Week 7: Quanterness (Maeshowe tomb)

Quanterness was opened and investigated in the 1800s by George Barry and reinvestigated by Colin Renfrew in 1972. The Maeshowe type tomb is located on the lower slope of Wideford Hill. The tomb measures 1.8 X 6.4 meters north-south.  As it can be seen in the picture, there are six side chambers and out of the six only four of them have the roofs intact.

This picture shows the plan of the tomb. out of the 6 side chambers 2 are collapsed. source: http://www.odysseyadventures.ca/articles/orkney-tombs/maeshowe_tombs-quanterness.htm

During the reinvestigation by Renfrew, southern chamber was excavated and contained a crouched skeleton covered by slabs while in the central chamber similar burial was found but placed in a stone-lined cist. The pits were covered by 3 layers of deposit containing about 90% of the human bones recovered from this tomb. The scattered bones belonged to about 157 individuals and represented both genders and all age group from infants to adults. Along with the human remains animal bones were also recovered, mostly of domestic animals like sheep and cattle. Artefacts like grooved ware sherds, an antler hammer and domestic tools were also found in this tomb. The domestic animal bones suggests that foods were offered and grave good as a part of rituals. In this tomb there were evidences of both excarnation as well as direct interment (Crouched skeleton). According to Odyssey, there were some evidence of burning the dead in the later periods.

I will try to more collect articles (peer reviewed) on dating of the bones and artefacts of this tomb.


Odessy adventures in archeology (2012). Available from http://www.odysseyadventures.ca/articles/orkney-tombs/maeshowe_tombs-quanterness.htm

Renfrew, C., Harkness, D. and Switsur, R. (1976). Quanterness, radiocarbon and the Orkney cairns. Antiquity, 50, pp 194-204. Available from http://journals.cambridge.org/action/loginShibb?jid=AQY



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