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Varme Dale

Barrow(S) (Bronze Age), Cist(S) (Bronze Age), Cist (Early Bronze Age), Cremation(S) (Early Bronze Age)

Site Name Varme Dale

Classification Barrow(S) (Bronze Age), Cist(S) (Bronze Age), Cist (Early Bronze Age), Cremation(S) (Early Bronze Age)

Alternative Name(s) Gorn

Canmore ID 2423

Site Number HY41NW 2

NGR HY 4074 1856

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/2423

Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2024.

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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Evie And Rendall
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY41NW 2 4074 1856.

(HY 406 186) Tumuli (NR)

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

A group of six mounds, 19ft to 31ft in diameter and 2ft to 4ft in height. The most southerly appears to have been opened.

RCAHMS 1946.

Six barrows, as described by the Commission. Four are as published by the OS: the other two are at HY 4074 1856 and HY 4075 1856.

Another, c.15.0m in diameter and c.0.6m high, is at HY 4077 1874, on a false crest.

Surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS(RL) 13 June 1967.

HY 406 186 Topographic survey, geophysical survey and excavation was undertaken in June 1998. The two mounds which were investigated of this extensive group (NMRS HY41NW 2) were particularly badly damaged, one by rabbits, the other by cattle and rabbits. Two cists were exposed within a mound that had been almost levelled by rabbits, and cremation burials were recovered from both. The other larger mound was better preserved and had a more complex structure. A very substantial stone kerb had been built over a thick layer of burnt stones and burnt turves. The central cist was located but not excavated as it is not under threat.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

J Downes 1998

Activities

Field Visit (13 June 1967)

Six barrows, as described by the Commission. Four are as published by the OS: the other two are at HY 4074 1856 and HY 4075 1856.

Another, c.15.0m in diameter and c.0.6m high, is at HY 4077 1874, on a false crest.

Surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS(RL) 13 June 1967.

Field Visit (May 1981)

As described. Additional mound at HY 4071 1880, 5m dia, 0.3m

high. The area is a small remaining tract of rough grass and

heather among recently improved land and must be regarded as

under threat of improvement.

Information from Orkney SMR (RGL) May 81.

Field Visit (9 September 1993)

Eight mounds were recorded at Varme Dale during the course of the Orkney Barrows Project. The whole group is a mixture of sizes and sitings. The lower placed mounds have not been ploughed due to boggy ground.

Varme Dale 1: 40740 18560. The placing of this bowl-shaped mound on a spur elevates it and makes it look like it is on a platform. It measures 9.7m by 10.7m and 0.4m in height. It is visible from the N for 350m and for 400m to the S.

Varme Dale 2: 40750 18560. Kerbed Bowl. Measures 8.4m by 7.m. Height 0.7m. It is visible from the N for 350m and probably for 400m to the S.

Varme Dale 3: 40650 18530. Bowl-shaped. Measures 9.3m by 10.4m. Height 0.6m. On the main slope of the hill, so not as prominent as 1 and 2.

Varme Dale 4: 40710 18630. Bowl-shaped. Measures 7.5m by 6.8m. Visible from S and SW for 500m-1km and from mounds 1, 2 and 3.

Varme Dale 5: 40580 18700. Kerbed Bowl. Measures 5.4m by 5.0m. Height 0.5m. Visibility good from upslope, not prominent from S downslope.

Varme Dale 6: 40620 18700. Kerbed Bowl. Measures 6.9m by 6.8m. Height 0.7m. Some large kerb blocks are visible. Visibility good from upslope, not prominent from S downslope.

Varme Dale 7: 40770 18740. Bowl-shaped, Measures 9.2m by 9.9m. Height 1.0m. Located at foot of slope, not prominent.

Varme Dale 8: 40710 18800. This bowl-shaped mound overlooks the rest of the cemetery, and was possibly the largest of the group although its size has been enhanced by peat growth. Of all the Varme Dale mounds it is the only one that can be seen from the groups to the E. It measures 16.0m by 13.5m and 0.9m in height.

Information from the Orkney Barrows Project (JD), 1993

Excavation (1998)

HY 406 186 Topographic survey, geophysical survey and excavation was undertaken in June 1998. The two mounds which were investigated of this extensive group (NMRS HY41NW 2) were particularly badly damaged, one by rabbits, the other by cattle and rabbits. Two cists were exposed within a mound that had been almost levelled by rabbits, and cremation burials were recovered from both. The other larger mound was better preserved and had a more complex structure. A very substantial stone kerb had been built over a thick layer of burnt stones and burnt turves. The central cist was located but not excavated as it is not under threat.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

J Downes 1998

Field Visit (June 2012)

HY 40715 18796 In June 2012 brief visits were made to several scheduled sites on the S-facing slope of Enyas Hill to test their value as viewpoints for wind farm planning assessments. Varme Dale is a dispersed scheduled collection of six mounds and barrows and the visit focused on an unscheduled outlier mound at HY 40716 18792 added to the group from a 1981 account (HY41NW 2), and the highest altitude mound at 49m OD. A second smaller outlier mound, c3.5m wide by 0.3m high was noted c18m W of the first at HY 40699 18786.

The various clusters of monuments are almost certainly parts of general Bronze Age activity planned to exploit the extensive panoramic outlooks across the Bay of Firth. The modern nomenclature and protective zoning tends to artificially divide the traces into segments which underplay the full spread. At a detailed level, there are differences in recognisable size, the probable content of contained cists and maybe variations in construction, but the overall pattern is a series of low earth burial mounds, 5–15m in diameter and 0.3–2.0m high. The RCAHMS records suggest Verme Dale has at least seven recognisable mounds, whilst nearby Knowes of Euro has two mounds, and West Puldrite four mounds. This gives a total of at least 13 surviving mounds, and has increased significance when the full group is viewed as a single landscape phenomenon, which may originally have contained many more elements within its zonal spread.

The various hillslopes around the Bay of Firth have a very high distribution of Bronze Age mounds and tumuli and this specific Enyas hillslope gives an unexpected sightline beyond the encircling horizons to the hills of Hoy through the Finstown gap. It seems very probable that this view was a selection factor for their location, as this landscape window is only available from a restricted portion of the hillside.

David Lynn,

2012

Note (2020)

Varme Dale

This burial site in Orkney Islands was a focus for funerary practices in the Bronze Age period, between 2200 BC and 1501 BC.

Prehistoric Grave Goods project site ID: 60013

CANMORE ID: 2423

Total no. graves with grave goods: 1

Total no. people with grave goods: 2

Total no. grave goods: 2

Prehistoric Grave Goods project Grave ID: 72317

Grave type: Cist

Burial type(s): Cremation, Cremation

Grave good: Animal Bone (Other)

Materials used: Bone/Antler/Horn/Ivory/Tooth (Animal) [Bone]

Current museum location: Unknown

Grave good: Unknown Object

Materials used: Bone/Antler/Horn/Ivory/Tooth (Animal) [Bone]

Current museum location: Unknown

Further details, the full project database and downloads of project publications can be found here: https://doi.org/10.5284/1052206

An accessible visualisation of the database can be found here: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/grave-goods/map/

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