Week 10: Animal totems

As mentioned in the post of week 6, there are two type of tombs: Orkney-Cromarty and Maeshowe. In both types of tombs, along with human remains, animal bones were also recovered. The animal bones were of domestic animals mostly which included cattle, sheep and small horses. The animals could have been ceremonial offerings or remains of ritual feasts. However, some species of animal bones were found to be offered at particular tombs and not commonly found in the other tombs like the domestic animals’. Some examples of such animals are, burial of complete carcasses of sea-eagles in the Isbister tomb, 36 red deer bones in Knowe of Yarso tomb, 24 dog skulls in Cuween Hill Cairn and otter bones in the tomb of the otters (Wickham-Jones, C.,2013). It is evident from this that during the Neolithic period certain animals were regarded as totem animals and may have represented certain tribes in that period.


Odyssey adventures in archaeology (2012). Megalithic tombs of Orkney. Available from http://www.odysseyadventures.ca/articles/orkney-tombs/orctombs.htm

Wickham-Jones, C. (2013). Orkney A Historical Guide. 4th ed. Edinburgh: Birlinn limited.


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