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Saevar Howe

Long Cist(S) (Early Medieval), Settlement (Period Unassigned), Bell, Spearhead

Site Name Saevar Howe

Classification Long Cist(S) (Early Medieval), Settlement (Period Unassigned), Bell, Spearhead

Alternative Name(s) Knowe Of Saverough

Canmore ID 1835

Site Number HY22NW 5

NGR HY 2460 2700

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/1835

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Birsay And Harray
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY22NW 5 2460 2700.

(HY 2460 2700) Saevar Howe (OE)

O.S.6"map, Orkney, 2nd ed., (1900).

Saevar Howe or 'Saverough' is a large sandy hillock some 170 ft in diameter and 10 ft in height lying a few feet above high-water mark. It appears natural but excavations by Farrer between 1862 and 1867 (J Farrer 1867) revealed that some large building had stood here at an early date and that when earth and sand had covered it to a depth of 10 ft or more the site became a long-cist Christian cemetery.

The building, very ruinous, yielded finds typical of a broch culture but also a bone implement found elsewhere only at Skara Brae (HY21NW 12 ) and in a late pre-broch level at Jarlshof (HU30 NE). The mound also contained a well-built wall enclosing what appeared to be a flagged yard, the whole surrounded by an extensive and thick midden deposit of shells. A few feet from the building were found two small cists and a third which contained the Celtic bell, known as the Bell of Birsay (now in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland [NMAS]) suggested by Anderson (J Anderson 1869) to be the bell of the Celtic church (HY22NW 1), deliberately buried to save it from the Norsemen. Some years before 1863 a LBA spearhead was picked up on the top of the mound.

RCAHMS 1946; J Farrer 1865; J Coles 1962

Saevar Howe, a sandy hillock as described. There are no surface indications of a building or cists.

Visited by OS(RL) 19 May 1967

Limited rescue work which elucidated the sequence of the site was carried out in 1977 by John Hedges. The mound has three phases, first Pictish period buildings of which only fragments were uncovered, secondly Viking period buildings and thirdly a long cist cemetery.

C D Morris 1983.

'The Orcadian' reported the excavation of this site in 1866. The bell from the cist discovered in 1863 is mentioned in 'The Orkney Herald' and 'The Orcadian' in the later 19th century.

Activities

Field Visit (19 May 1967)

Saevar Howe, a sandy hillock as described. There are no surface indications of a building or cists.

Visited by OS(RL) 19 May 1967

Orkney Smr Note

1/2 mile S of Birsay Parish Church this mound has a diameter

of about 168ft and stands 14 -16ft high. Finds include: Human

skull, small clay urn, portion of small clay urn, portion of skull

and lower jaw of pig and leg bone of ox, two cut bone pins, a

portable whetstone, Iron Bell and numerous full length graves. The

bell was in all likelyhood the bell of the Celtic church of Birsay

and had been buried deliberately to save it from the invading

Norsemen. Some years later a well built wall was found enclosed

with what appears to have been a flagged yard. There is nothing

apart from the relics to suggest a broch. All that can be safely

inferred is that some large building stood here at an early date.

The site became a Christian cemetry. Known locally as Saverough

Information from Orkney SMR [n.d.]

References

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