MAES HOWE TOMB

Monday, January 19, 2009




Maes Howe gives its name to a small group of tombs found in the Orkney Islands. Only about a dozen have been recognized, and Maes Howe and Quanterness are fine examples. The cairns are round with a long low passage entering the chamber at right angles to its axis. The main chamber is usually large and squarish with three or more side chambers leading from it. Maes Howe is the most sophisticated monument of its kind in Britain, if not in eastern Europe. Built of carefully shaped blocks of stone to a symmetrical design, it is a triumph of the mason’s art. Inside a broad circular ditch stands a grass-covered mound 7.3 m. (8.2 yd) high and 35 m. (38.3 yd) in diameter. A passage 9 m. (10 yd) long leads into a chamber 4.5 m. (5 yd) square, and originally about 4.5 m. (5 yd) high, with a square corbelled roof vault. On each side a small square opening leads into a side chamber averaging 1.7 m. (1.9 yd) by 1.3 m. (1.4 yd) in size. Any burials that the tomb contained have long since disappeared. The entrance passage to Maes Howe faces south-westwards. At midwinter the rays of the setting sun shine along the passage and fall on the rear wall of the central chamber.


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