Discover the Sites

 

ISBISTER CHAMBERED CAIRN - THE ‘TOMB OF THE EAGLES’

 

On a summer’s evening in 1958, Orkney farmer Ronnie Simison noticed a section of horizontal stones exposed near the sandstone cliffs bordering his farmland. Digging down beside the drystone wall, he found a cache of beautiful polished artefacts – a mace head, three stone axe heads, a black 'button' and a small limestone knife. This chance discovery changed life for Ronnie and his family forever, and led to the creation of one of Orkney’s leading visitor attractions.

 

Returning a few days after his initial find, Ronnie was amazed when he uncovered a small stone chamber containing about 30 human skulls.
What he had at first thought might be a dwelling place was later confirmed to be a 5,000 year old Neolithic or Stone Age tomb.

 

Alongside the human bones were the talons and bones of an
estimated 14 white-tailed or ‘sea’ eagles - the only tomb in Orkney with such a density of eagle bones. The site became known as the ‘Tomb of the Eagles’, and it raises many questions about the significance of these birds in the lives of the people who lived here.

 

THE LIDDLE BURNT MOUND AND BRONZE AGE BUILDING

 

Inland from the Stone Age tomb, Ronnie discovered a 3,000
year-old Bronze Age site. Excavations revealed a building
complete with stone trough, water system and hearth, adjacent
to a mound of burnt stone. Archaeologists agree that water
was heated in the trough but there is much debate about how
it was used.

For Ronnie and his wife Morgan, the discovery of these
sites on their farmland sparked a lifelong passion for
archaeology, and led them to create an extraordinary
visitor attraction, now managed by two of their daughters.

These original photographs show the Isbister Chambered Cairn and the Bronze Age building during excavation and as they are today.