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  The Isbister Cairn - The Tomb of the Eagles

The people of Neolithic Isbister

The large number of well-preserved human remains inside the Isbister cairn has provided an invaluable glimpse of the community that lived in the area 5,000 years ago.

A wide variety of people were interred within the cairn.

The remains of males and females of all ages - except very young infants - were found within the chamber. This led to the conclusion that the tomb was communal and that the majority of the community’s dead had their remains deposited inside it.

The study of the bones revealed much about the people of Neolithic Orkney.

They were very much like Orcadians today - averaging 5ft 7in for men and 5ft 4in for women.

Although their active lifestyle had left them well-built and highly muscled, their remains showed that the harsh conditions they experienced throughout their lives took their toll.

A number of the women had deformed skulls, undoubtedly caused by carrying heavy loads on their backs, supported by a band worn around the forehead. In addition, around half of the adult population also showed evidence of degenerative spine disease.

Child mortality at the time was high, but even those who survived past puberty, could not expect a long life - usually dying between 30 and 40 years of age.

Only a handful of men reached 50 (few women, probably due to the problems of childbirth) so the community would have been made up of young people. Among the younger folk, the few who survived to old age were probably held in some esteem.

Because of this, various tasks and responsibilities would have to have been passed to children at a young age.

The face of Neolithic Orkney

Isbister Woman

The pictures shown above are computer reconstructions of one of the skulls found inside the Tomb of the Eagles.

The skull was found in the cairn during the excavations in the 1970s, but it has taken 30 years and some of the latest computer equipment to give her a face.

Maria Vanezis, of the department of forensic medicine and science at Glasgow University, created the pictures of the 5,000-year-old woman in 2000.

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See Also

External Links
The Tomb of the Eagles official site

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