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  The Taversoe Tuick, Rousay

Taverso Tuick looking to the south west. Picture Sigurd TowrieThe Taversoe Tuick - or Taiverso Tooack, to give it its correct Orcadian name - is a chambered cairn built into a sloping hillside on the south side of Rousay, overlooking Wyre Sound.

Dating from around 3000BC, what is particularly interesting about this Neolithic cairn is the fact that it is a two-storey structure, with one chamber set on top of the other. There is only other other cairn of this design found in Orkney — Huntersquoy, on the island of Eday.

The discovery and excavation

The cairn was discovered in 1898, at which time it would have appeared as a small heathery knoll — a perfect viewpoint for looking out across the Wyre Sound, towards Wyre, Gairsay and the Orkney Mainland.

This prompted the owner of Rousay's Trumland Estate, the infamous General Burroughs, to erect a sheltered seat where he might enjoy the spectacular views. It was during this construction operation that the cairn's upper chamber was exposed.

The discovery of the cairn, in particular the human remains within, disturbed Burrough's wife somewhat. She wrote:

"When I went to bed that night I could think of nothing else! There we had sat during many happy summers, stretched on the purple heather, basking in the sunshine; laughing and talking with the carelessness of youth, little dreaming that barely eight feet below us sat these grim and ghastly skeletons."

The two-storey site passed into the protection of the Ministry of Works in 1934, and, three years later, a thorough excavation took place.

Upper ChamberThe structure was found to have a diameter of about 9.2 metres. A platform made up of loose, flat stones surrounded the cairn with a clear, stone-free entrance leading up to the western side.

Two entrances were found — one in the south-eastern side, leading to a lower chamber, with a second north-facing entrance passage leading to an upper chamber.

Although a gap in the upper chamber floor now allows visitors to access to the lower chamber by ladder, when the cairn was in use this was not possible — each chamber was only accessible via its own entrance passage.

The outer chamber

Dug into the ground to the left, and slightly downhill, of the lower chamber entrance is a small chamber that has been described as a mini tomb.

This chamber is divided by four upright slabs and was found to contain three pottery bowls. No remains were found in the bowls but it seems likely that the outer chamber formed some part of the rituals that took place within the tomb.