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  The Quoyness Cairn, Sanday

The Quoyness chambered cairn, in Sanday, is yet another example of the Maeshowe-type cairns found in Orkney.

Picture Sigurd TowrieThe Quoyness structure is located on the peninsula known as Elsness, in the Sanday parish of Cross.

In all probability, Elsness was once an island, perhaps separated from the rest of Sanday by a shallow stretch of water. Sand has now filled this in, to form what we refer to in Orkney as an "ayre".

The Quoyness cairn dates from the early third millennium BC (approximately 2,900 BC), and lies close to the shore, just above the high-water mark.

An arc of 11 Bronze Age mounds, connected by a bank, surrounds the Neolithic cairn. The presence of these funerary mounds, as well as the other 26 mounds that are scattered across the ness, seems to indicate that Elsness had some ritual, or sacred, significance to the Neolithic inhabitants of the area - from the date of the cairn's construction through to the second millennium BC.

At the heart of the Quoyness cairn is the main chamber.

Picture Sigurd TowrieStanding approximately four metres high, this chamber is accessed by crawling through a nine metre long, low, entrance passage.

Rather than attempting to portray how the cairn originally looked, these days the external appearance of the cairn is meant to give the visitor an idea of the complexity of the various building phases Because of this, only half of the entrance passage is roofed.

A wide, stone platform surrounds the central cairn structure and, in all likelihood, when in use the cairn would have appeared as a large grassy mound, much like Maeshowe today.

Inside, six smaller chambers open off from the main chamber. Dug into the chamber’s clay floor is a shallow pit and a short trench, both of which date from the tomb's original construction.

Picture Sigurd TowrieDuring exploratory work in the 19th century, bones from at least ten adults and five children were removed from the cairn.

Other finds included fragments of animal bone, pottery, bone and stone tools, along with two of the intriguing carved stone objects, similar to those found at the Neolithic village of Skara Brae in the Mainland parish of Sandwick.