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Rousay, Knowe Of Yarso

Chambered Cairn (Neolithic), Beaker (Pottery)(Bronze Age), Food Vessel (Pottery)(Bronze Age)

Site Name Rousay, Knowe Of Yarso

Classification Chambered Cairn (Neolithic), Beaker (Pottery)(Bronze Age), Food Vessel (Pottery)(Bronze Age)

Canmore ID 2623

Site Number HY42NW 1

NGR HY 4048 2795

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Rousay And Egilsay
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY42NW 1 4048 2795.

(HY 4046 2795) Brough (NR) (Site of)

"Knowe of Yarso", an Orkney-Cromarty stalled cairn situated on the very edge of a 50yd wide shelf which drops in a cliff to the terrace below. Before excavtions, in 1934, it was a low grass-grown mound from which some slabs protruded.

The cairn is more or less rectangular in plan, with rounded corners, the major axis lying NW by W and SE by E and measures 50' by 25' 6" with a maximum height of 6'. There is an outer and inner wall face encircling the cairn, the inner 2' 4" behind the outer. The roughly paved passage, 13' 2" long, enters the chamber from the SE. The chamber, 24' 1" long and 5' 5" to 6' wide, is divided into three compartments by upright transverse slabs. The cairn contained the bones of at least twenty-nine individuals as well as those of at least thirty-six reindeer, sheep and a dog. Finds included fragments of food-vessel and beaker pottery, four arrowheads and more than sixty other flint implements and five bone tools, which were donatgd to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS) in 1934 by Walter A Grant.

A S Henshall 1963; J G Callander and W G Grant 1935; RCAHMS 1946.

'Knowe of Yarso' as described and planned by Henshall and now restored and preserved by DOE.

Surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS(ISS) 9 October 1972.


Field Visit (1941)

Visited by Childe in 1941.

V G Childe 1942

Publication Account (1996)

The builders of this tomb chose a terrace on a steep hillside with a superb view over Eynhallow Sound, regardless of the effort involved in carrying up the slabs used in its construction. It has a stalled chamber set within a sub-rectangular cairn, and a decorative effect was achieved in the outer wall-face by setting the slabs at an angle. The chamber is protected by a modern roof, and its walls are well preserved to a height of about 1.8m (see p41); it is divided into three compartments, the end one double-sized but nonetheless marked off into two areas by low upright slabs. Parts of twenty-nine individuals were found in the chamber, mostly in the innermost compartment, the skulls carefully arranged against the wall, and amongst the animal bones were remains of some thirty-six deer. There was also an unusually large number of flint tools, especially scrapers, which may perhaps be connected symbolically with the deer in the sense of being tools suitable for the preparation of animal skins for clothing and other articles.

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

Orkney Smr Note

Artefacts: RMS EO 393-484

Human rems: 1 skull in RMS, ref L 1945 7, 4 in Anatomy Dept,

University of Aberdeen

Animal rems: RMS

C14 date of 2275 +- 60 BC (calibrated to 2940 +- 110 BC) from red deer bone. [R5]

Information from Orkney SMR [n.d.]


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