Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Rousay, Blackhammer

Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)

Site Name Rousay, Blackhammer

Classification Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)

Canmore ID 2645

Site Number HY42NW 3

NGR HY 4142 2761

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

HY42NW 3 4142 2761.

(HY 4146 2771) 'Blackhammer', an Orkney-Cromarty Stalled Cairn, situated on a shelf on the lower slopes of the hillside. Since excavation in 1936 the site has been placed under DOE guardianship and is now protected by a modern roof, the whole construction being turfed over. Before excavation the cairn measured 78' by 34' and 5' in height, and was already much robbed and disturbed.

Excavation showed that the structure measured 72' 6" long by 27' wide, with the main axis E by S and W by N. It is roughly rectangular with slightly curved sides and rounded corners and faced with a carefully built wall-face, surviving in one place to a height of 3' 6". An inner wall-face lies 3' to 7' behind and remains up to 3' 9" high.

The passage, at right angles to the main axis of the cairn and chamber, opens from the S and is 9' 9" long, 2' 6" wide and 3' 6" high. When excavated, it was found to be blocked by masonry, the outer face flush with the outer wall surrounding the cairn. The chamber, 42' 6" long, 4' 9" to 5' 6" wide and from 2' to 5' high, is divided into seven compartments by six pairs of divisional stones, four of which have been removed. Two masses of rough masonry, of unknown purpose and date, have been inserted into the chamber. This re-use of the chamber probably accounts for the removal of some of the divisional stones and the reduction in height of others.

Finds included fragmentary skeletal remains of two adult males, numerous animal bones and pottery sherds, scrapes of pebble and flint, part of a bone pin, a flint knife and a polished stone axe of fine grain grey-green stone. The latter objects were donated to the National Museun of Antiquities of Scotland by Walter G Grant.

J G Callander and W G Grant 1937; RCAHMS 1946; A S Henshall 1963.

Blackhammer Cairn (a) at HY 4142 2761 as described and planned by Henshall.

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)

Another well-preserved stalled cairn, known as Blackhammer, is set on a terrace below the Knowe of Yarso (no. 83). The entrance passage opens from the side of the oblong cairn, but access for the modern visitor is by ladder through the roof. The builders of the tomb created a decorative appearance by setting the stones of the outer wallface slanting to form alternate triangles, and this can still be seen on either side of the entrance. When the passage was sealed for the last time, again stones were set flush with the outer wall and matching the slant of the stones on either side.

The chamber has seven compartments, although at some later date rough stonework has been inserted into the central compartment and four of the dividing slabs are missing. The tomb was excavated in 1936, and the partial remains of one person were found in the western most compartment and those of another in the entrance passage. There were also animal bones, especially sheep, along with pottery, flint tools, part of a bone pin and a stone axe.

To the west are the grass-grown remains of a very long stalled cairn, Knowe of Ramsay (HY 400279), which on excavation proved to contain a chamber divided into fourteen compartments, entered from the south-east end.

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

Orkney Smr Note

Orkney-Cromarty stalled chambered tomb in SDD guardianship.

Before excavation in the 1930s it appeared as an oblong rise

looking like the ruin-mound of a small farmhouse.

Grant excavation plans in Orkney Archives - copies in NMRS

ref ORD/138/2-3. [R1], [R2], [R3], [R4]

Information from Orkney SMR [n.d.]


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions