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  Minehowe - The Underground Enigma

Reconstructing the past?

Was Minehowe an attempt to replicate earlier monuments?

During the 2000 Minehowe excavations, Dr Colin Richards, put forward an interesting theory to explain the site.

Dr Richards, who was in the county at the time working on the Neolithic settlement at Stonehall, was drawn to the similarities between Minehowe and the chambered cairn of Maeshowe, in the parish of Stenness.

Dr Richards suggested that Maeshowe, which was already 3,000 years old by the time Minehowe was constructed, would have stood out as an integral part of the landscape.

Because the Iron Age inhabitants of Orkney were surrounded by numerous examples of Neolithic architecture, and given the evidence of Iron Age ritual activity around the Standing Stones of Stenness, it is possible that Maeshowe was still revered long after its heyday.

We know that Iron Age Orcadians did reuse ancient sites such as the Quanterness chambered cairn, where there was clear evidence of an Iron Age roundhouse being built into the front of the Neolithic structure.

In this case, the Iron Age builders incorporated an already ancient structure into theirs, but also seemed to take care not to disturb the entrance. Instead they entered the Neolithic chamber through the roof.

In the Iron Age, Maeshowe would have appeared as a large conical mound surrounded by a large, enclosing ditch and with an "entrance" hole broken into the top.

So did Minehowe's architects attempt to replicate this landscape in the way that they understood it?

Did they try to make sense of Maeshowe in a way that applied to their own religious, or ritual, practices, perhaps regarding Maeshowe as an entry to their Underworld. An entry that they sought to recreate for themselves?

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