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HomeArchaeologyThe Enigma of the Dwarfie Stane, Ancient Tomb of Orkney

The Enigma of the Dwarfie Stane, Ancient Tomb of Orkney

There is one thing about Orkney that conjures up nice thriller in any customer. It is an historical place – located only a “stone’s throw” north of Scotland – and it boasts a wealthy historical past that reaches far again in time. One of its historical relics is the Dwarfie Stane, a moderately enigmatic prehistoric tomb that sits in the solitude of Hoy Island. Who carved it, and whose stays rested inside it, we have no idea. But that enigma simply opens an entire world of prospects, and rapidly stirs the imaginative thoughts.

The Dwarfie Stane is one of Orkney’s Most Valuable Ancient Relics

If you occur to wander in the desolate landscapes of Hoy Island, Orkney’s second largest, you would possibly stumble throughout a large glaciated valley, roughly in its center. Sitting between the small settlements of Rackwick and Quoys, it’s a inexperienced and barren place, with steep sides and barely clinging mist that drifts throughout the panorama. This valley is a very solitary place – it’s not way more than desolate peatland, however it’s charming, nonetheless. And proper in its middle lies the dormant Dwarfie Stane, its sleep undisturbed for 1000’s of years.

The stone is actually a moderately massive and nearly naturally rectangular piece of Devonian Old Red Sandstone, positioned there by the inventive hand of mom nature, hundreds of thousands of years in the past. And some of Hoy’s historical inhabitants noticed it as a really perfect place for a tomb. The stone is a glacial erratic – i.e., a stone that’s glacially deposited and differs from the rock’s native to the space. That’s precisely why it seems to “stick out” from the panorama. It measures 8.6 meters (28 ft) in size, and 4 meters (13 ft) in width. Slightly slanted, it’s round 2.5 meters excessive (8.2 ft) at its highest finish.

Dwarfie Stane, Hoy, Orkney, Scotland. Southern cell. (Otter/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Dwarfie Stane, Hoy, Orkney, Scotland. Southern cell. (Otter/ CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Seeing it, one might simply overlook the indisputable fact that it’s a chambered tomb. On one of its wider sides there’s a small hand-carved entrance – a 1 meter (3.3 ft) sq., that opens into a really small tomb area. From the entrance is a small passage, 2.2 meters (7.2 ft) lengthy, with two cells at the sides. The cells measure roughly 1.7 meters by 1 meter (5.6 ft by 3.3 ft). The top of the ceiling is simply 1 meter (3.3 ft), which means that anybody coming into must both be on their knees or actually bent over.

The Final Resting Place of an Unknown Prehistoric Person

To today, it’s not recognized who might need eternally rested on this distinctive tomb. The tomb area has been carved with loads of persistence and precision – its sides are completely easy, with small ridges and grooves in the area the place the deceased could be laid down. The proper cell even has a “pillow” – a small piece of uncut rock at its internal finish. Either method, it’s sure that the tomb builders paid loads of care and a spotlight when carving the tomb. But it should have been a tedious and grueling job, since the Old Red Sandstone has been described as “extremely compact” and onerous. And the solely instruments out there then have been made of stone and deer antler. This reality makes the creation of Dwarfie Stane a feat of awe-inspiring proportions!

The Dwarfie Stane has many legends linked to it. Just as the title suggests, a neighborhood legend states {that a} Dwarf by the title Trollid lived inside it, whereas one other – in a moderately comical distinction – states that the tomb was constructed by giants. Of course, it was the work of neither dwarves nor giants, however of Orkney’s Neolithic inhabitants.

The age of the tomb has been estimated at 3,000 years outdated or extra. Who was it for will not be recognized, maybe an historical chieftain of Hoy – or a Bronze Age chief of the native tribes. Once the deceased was positioned inside, the tomb was sealed with an important sq. slab, which now lies at the entrance of the rock.

Alas, someday in the passing centuries the tomb turned the goal of grave robbers. Instead of pushing the nice slab apart, they carved a gap in the tomb ceiling, plundering no matter lay inside. This gap has been repaired in trendy occasions.

So Simple – Yet So Unique

The simplicity of Dwarfie Stane hides its true uniqueness. One curious facet is its similarity to tombs in Southern Europe, in the Mediterranean. Many students proposed that it’s the try “at imitation” of Mediterranean tombs, however this principle has been dismissed. It is agreed that the tomb is of native inspiration, and no proof exists that it has any direct hyperlinks to Mediterranean-type tombs. Still, the Dwarfie Stane is taken into account the solely instance of a Neolithic rock-cut tomb in the entire of Britain. This reality alone makes it very distinctive. Still, regardless of this uniqueness, the Dwarfie Stane continues to be per the Orkney-Cromarty sort of chambered tombs which might be discovered on Orkney. But all the different tombs are made of many stones stacked, moderately than carved out from a single stone slab as right here.

The Dwarfie Stane was all the time a well-liked attraction in the area. Over the centuries many guests carved crude graffiti, few of which might nonetheless be learn in the present day. A notable customer was Captain William Mounsey, who visited in 1850 and left an inscription in Persian:

“I’ve sat two nights and so learnt persistence”.

This is an inscription in Persian was left by captain William Henry Mounsey of Castletown and Rockcliffe, who camped here in 1850, and reads: "I have sat two nights and so learnt patience". Above the Persian is his name written backwards in Latin. The complete text is "YESNVOM SVMLEILVC". Visible here is "ELMVS MOVNSEY"; in mirror writing: "YESNVOM SVMLE". (Bruce McAdam/CC BY-SA 2.0)

This is an inscription in Persian was left by captain  William Henry Mounsey  of Castletown and Rockcliffe, who camped right here in 1850, and reads: “I’ve sat two nights and so learnt persistence”. Above the Persian is his title written backwards in  Latin. The full textual content is “YESNVOM SVMLEILVC”. Visible right here is “ELMVS MOVNSEY”; in mirror writing: “YESNVOM SVMLE”. (Bruce McAdam/ CC BY-SA 2.0 )

And although it’s considerably easy at first look, the Dwarfie Stane is however an extremely essential piece of Orkney’s distant historical past, and a charming relic of the Stone Age individuals who lived there.

Top picture: ‘Dwarfie Stane’ (Dwarf’s Stone) on the  Island of Hoy Orkney Islands , Scotland  Source: Grovel at English Wikipedia/ CC BY 3.0

By Aleksa Vučković


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