Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn

Orkney, United Kingdom

Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn is a Neolithic chambered cairn, dating back to around 3,000 BCE. It is cairn of similar design to Maeshowe, but on a smaller basis. Cuween Hill was constructed as a burial place by a group of Neolithic farmers.

The entry to the tomb is down a narrow passage, partly open to the sky. The main chamber, built on the bedrock, stands well over 2 meters high, and was probably taller before 19th century explorers broke through the roof to gain entry. The roof has been replaced with a modern one. Four small side-cells lead off the main chamber.

Remains of at least eight human burials were found in the chamber along with many animal bones. Most of the human remains consisted of skulls. On the floor of the chamber lay the skulls of 24 small dogs. The discovery of the dog skulls has led to suggestions that the local tribe or family may have had the dog as their symbol or totem.

When the cairn was opened in recent times, it was found to have been carefully blocked up. This could indicate that it was closed permanently when the community stopped using it, or it could mean that tombs like this were closed up regularly between episodes of use.

Access to the cairn is on foot, through the original entrance. Visitors will need to crawl through the passage on their hands and knees. There is enough room inside to stand, but the light is limited. The cairn was excavated in 1901, and it is in the care of Historic Scotland. The roof is now a modern concrete dome.

In the 1990s, excavations uncovered the remains of a small Neolithic settlement at Stonehall, below the cairn at the foot of Cuween Hill.

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4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Marty Pumbien (3 months ago)
Nice dog walk, lovely views ...
Mechelle Mulligan (9 months ago)
Great place, small car park, short climb. Box with a torch if you want to go inside (I didn't).
Ian Foster (14 months ago)
You need a torch and not mind getting muddy knees and hands. The fairly short entrance passage is muddy and you probably will be on your hands and knees. Ridiculously old and rather well made. Worth seeing to get an idea about how able people were 5,000 years ago.
Mark McLellan (2 years ago)
A small hike to this one from the car park. Its a hands and knees job to get inside so maybe only for those with good mobility.
Paul Denney (2 years ago)
This one is well worth a visit, It's as intact as Meashowe and still has its original roof. I suspect that the method of construction is exactly the same as the houses at Skara Brea and not the thatched roof setup they are shown with.
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