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Calf Of Eday, Long

Chambered Cairn (Neolithic), Dyke (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Calf Of Eday, Long

Classification Chambered Cairn (Neolithic), Dyke (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 3151

Site Number HY53NE 18

NGR HY 5786 3861

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Eday
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY53NE 18 5786 3861

See also HY53NE 19.

Orkney SMR Reference: OR 977, OR 978

(HY 5786 3861) An Orkney-Cromarty-type long cairn whose body encloses a contemporary stalled chamber aligned on the axis of the cairn and entered from the east end, and also an earlier (A S Henshall 1963) chamber or house (R W Feachem 1963), surrounded by an inner core of cairn material, whose passage had been carefully blocked.

The cairn, excavated by Calder in 1936, measures 66' by 27' and there is a drop of 6' along the main axis. It is faced by a well-built wall which survives to a height of 2', and is battered in places and vertical in others, which may be due to thrust. The floor of the east chamber bore a layer of blown sand, evidently accumulated after the roof had been removed, over which lay Iron Age occupation debris. There was no sand in the west chamber but some occupation debris occurred in the peat filling. Finds from the site are in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS), Stromness Museum and Carrick House, Eday.

The dilapidated remains of an old wall overlay the site before excavation and ran NE of the site to HY53NE 19. (OS 6"map, Orkney, 1st ed.,[1882]).

C S T Calder 1937; additional note V G Childe 1946; RCAHMS 1946; A S Henshall 1963.

As described and planned by Henshall.

Surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (AA) 23 July 1970.

Situated on the SW slopes of the island, this cairn was excavated by Calder in 1936. Two chambers were revealed, the earlier being a small example of Bookan type with two compartments and an entrance-passage; the later chamber is stalled, with four compartments and the enclosing cairn overlies one of the corners of the earlier tomb. Both chambers were subsequently covered by an oblong cairn. Separated from the original deposits in both chambers by layers of blown sand and peat was evidence of Iron Age occupation. All of this had been overlain by a dyke (HY53NE 18). Although overgrown, the main elements of the structure are still apparent.

A C Renfrew 1979; RCAHMS 1984, visited May 1983.

Overrunning both the chambered tomb (HY53NE 18) and the roundhouse (HY53NE 19) was a length of massively constructed dyke. Above the older structures it was of course removed during excavation, but between the two it remains as a peat-covered ridge some 2m wide.

RCAHMS 1946; RCAHMS 1984, visited May 1983.


Excavation (1936)

Excavated by Calder in 1936.

Source: C S T Calder 1937

Publication Account (1996)

This large cairn was excavated in 1936 and, although ruinous and overgrown, the two chambers are still visible. This is a multi-period monument and very similar in its development to Holm of Papa Westray North (no. 78). The earliest tomb was small and consisted of two compartments within a small cairn. At some later stage (the detailed chronology is unknown), a larger stalled tomb was built to the immediate east, within its own rectangular cairn. Finally, both chambers and their cairns were enclosed within a larger rectangular cairn, maintaining the entrance passage into the eastern tomb. Sherds of Unstan pottery, flint tools and two stones axes were recovered from the stalled chamber, but soil conditions were unsuited to the recovery of bones, with the result that the number of burials is unknown.

On the slope just east of the cairn are the ruins of an iron-age domestic settlement, and the two smaller tombs nearby are almost intact and can be entered, although very little is known of their history or contents.

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


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