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Publication Account

Date 1996

Event ID 1016375

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


It is likely that, in neolithic times, Holm of Papay was not an is land but a promontory attached at the north end to Papa Westray, but even so it must be regarded as an uncommonly remote place to find one of the largest and most extraordinary tombs in Orkney. It is essentially a Maes Howe design, wth side-cells opening off a main rectangular chamber, but the enclosing cairn is oblong rather than round simply as the most economic way to encompass an enormously elongated chamber, fully 20.5m in length. The entrance-passage opens into the southeast long side of the chamber and, perhaps as a measure to strengthen the roof, there is a subdividing wall at either end of the chamber, each with a low doorway to allow access. No fewer than twelve side-cells, two of them double, are ranged round the chamber, all of them intact with lintelled entrances only 40cm to 60cm high.The roof over the main chamber is modern, and the visitor enters through a hatch and down a ladder rather than through the original low passage, although it is still complete. There are decorative carvings to discover, one on the south-east wall of the central part of the chamber, just south of the entrance, consisting of a double ring and an inverted V-motif, and three at the south-west end of the chamber, beyond the di viding wall ; on the lintel over the entrance to the south-east cell there are pecked dots and arcs, some combined to make ' eyebrow' motifs which are also to be found in Irish chambered tombs, and on the opposite wall a re zigzag and circle motifs. Nothing is known of the original contents of the tomb.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Orkney’, (1996).

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