Taversöe Tuick Chambered Cairn in Orkney, Scotland

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Taversöe Tuick Chambered Cairn (fotografie Eva Hopman).

On the south coast of the Scottish island of Rousay in the Orkneys is a tomb dating from the New Stone Age called the Taversöe Tuick Chambered Cairn. The cairn is divided into compartments or rooms and was built 5,000 years ago. The tomb was discovered in 1898 but was not excavated until 1937. It is now protected by a roof. The name is thought to come from the Old Norse words, tuick or tooack, from þúfa (hill) and taversöe or taiverso, in which the ‘o’ refers to haugr which also means a hill. The word taiver can have two derivations, either tafr (sacrifice) or taufr (magic or enchantment).

Taversöe Tuick Chambered Cairn (photography Eva Hopman).

Taversöe Tuick Chambered Cairn 

The diameter of the cairn is nine metres and belongs to the type known as Orkney-Cromarty. The tomb actually consists of two separate chambers, and the larger comprises two vaults, one above the other, making three graves in total. They were probably all built at the same time though each has its own entrance.

The upper grave in the tomb seen from above.

The upper chamber

The entrance to the upper chamber is on the north side. This entrance is 3.4 metres long, 0.9 metres wide and 0.9 metres high. The chamber is almost 5 metres by 2 metres and now lies at ground level. Inside the chamber were found cremated bones of at least one adult and one child. The chamber is divided into two parts. It is now possible to move between the upper and lower chambers through a hole in the floor, but this would not have been possible in the New Stone Age.

Taversöe Tuick Chambered Cairn – hole between the upper and lower chambers (photography Eva Hopman).
The entrance on the south side of the lower chamber – the only way in during the New Stone Age. © Otter [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

The lower chamber

The entrance to the lower chamber is on the south side. This chamber was divided into four with stone benches in each area. The entrance was 6 metres long and the passageway became higher and wider towards the chamber (a height of 0.6 metres to 1.2 metres and a width of 0.4 to 0.6 metres). The chamber itself was rectangular and almost 4 metres by 1.5 metres with a height of 1.5 metres. Cremated remains were found in the entrance passage, and in the chamber itself were found human bones from at least three people.

Lower chamber with stone benches.© Otter [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons.

The small grave

Next to the entrance to the lower chamber is a small grave with a pear-shaped chamber divided into four parts. The chamber is 1.6 long by 1.1 wide by 0.85 metres high. No bone material was found here, only three pots. This grave is linked by a narrow opening of 6 – 46 cm with the lower chamber. Its function is unclear: perhaps it was used to store sacrifices or it might be a kind of oracle, a place where you could talk to your ancestors.

Entrance to the small tomb. © Otter [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

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Source Wikipedia (NL)

Translation: Alun Harvey

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