A short distance from Rousay's Taversoe Tuick, and built into
a steep slope overlooking Wyre Sound, is the Blackhammer stalled
Thought to date from around 3,000
BC, the structure is a typical stalled cairn, with an interior divided
into seven compartments by pairs of upright stone slabs.
Today, a modern roof covers the original remains of the cairn,
which are are only a few feet high. Windows
built into this concrete construction supply ample light to explore
The original entrance was sealed
up when the cairn was abandoned, so modern access to the interior is
through a hatchway in the roof and ladder.
The structure is a 13-metre long oblong
and was originally constructed with a distinct decorative design
incorporated into its outer facing.
The stone slabs on the outside of
the cairn were slanted to form a triangular pattern
in the stonework. It is interesting to note the similarity between
this pattern and the patterns scratched into the rims of Unstan
Traces of the decorative stonework can still be
seen at either side of the entrance and when the entrance was finally sealed,
the cairn's users went to great lengths to ensure the stones used were set flush to the wall and matched the pattern
of slanting stones on either side.
The Blackhammer Cairn was excavated in 1936, with the remains of two men found inside. One body was in the most westerly compartment, the other lying in the entrance passage.
The fact that the cairn only contained
the remains of two people seems to imply that the chambers were
regularly cleared out - the remains of the recently dead replacing
those of previous generations.
Among the other finds were animal
bones, stone and flint tools, the remains of an Unstan-style bowl
and a burnt flint knife.
Among the other bones scattered throughout
the cairn were those of sheep, ox, red deer, geese, red deer, gannets
and cormorants. Many of these bones showed signs of burning or scorching.
Other finds included a section of
an Unstan ware urn, a finely-made flint knife, two scrapers and
five flint splinters.