29 September 2011

Orcadian historical wonders

Good morning! I just woke up after a 9.5 hr sleep. Both Spud & I agree we just had the best night's sleep in about five years. I put it down to a day of Orkney fresh air and a glass of Orkney whisky. Yesterday was Day 1 of our three-day archaeology tour with our first stop being Earl's Bu, a 12th century manor house belonging to the Earl's of Orkney with a wild history of Viking carry-ons.

From there we visited Unstan, a chambered cairn - or burial chamber with a low, long entrance way. These handsome Highland cows kindly posed for a photo on the way.

Here is Spud making his way out of the tomb. The weather has been absolutely magnificent too. Sunny, "warm" and not too windy.

This is one of the houses at Skara Brae, a Neolithic Settlement inhabited from 3100 to 2600BC and discovered in 1850 after a huge storm washed away the sand that had covered it for thousands of years. It was absolutely amazing and the contents of the houses have been left exactly as they were left. They have a central fireplace with beds on either side, a dresser at one end & in most cases, stone boxes holding water. Everything is built of the stone found everywhere on the islands.

We also visited the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar (above), both circles of standing stones. The history is utterly mind-boggling. The most incredible site was Maeshowe. W.O.W. It is another Neolithic chambered tomb but.... with the most phenomenal structure, consisting of massive whole slabs of stone weighing up to 7 tonnes. The stones have been shaped and fitted to give a really straight line inside. All done with no instrumentation or tools - other than stone tools. When it was discovered by modern archaeologists the tomb was empty. However, it's believed that Vikings, other way home from the Crusades in 1153, stopped by here for shelter because they left GRAFITTI on the walls, in the form of carved runes saying such things as, "Thorni bedded. Helga carved" or "Eyjolf Kolbeinsson carved these runes high". It's also believed that Maeshowe may have been a Viking brothel... So, lots of activity in this amazing place. We were not allowed to take photos but I would advise you to Google it and take a look. The whole area has now been declared a World Heritage Area which is great news because some of the damage done to the stones and sites in the past, due to ignorance, is appalling. If you tap the heading of this blog, it will take you to a website all about Maeshowe - if you are interested. :o)

Here I am doing my favourite thing, apart from blogging - sending postcards!
So, today we are off to see the Broch of Gurness and Brough of Birsay amongst other things. I thought I knew history but oh boy! I know nothing. It's just so fascinating and amazing to see these things. Off I go - gushing and oohing & aahhing again. I'm sure Caz thinks I am slghtly nuts. History is such a part of her life (she is studying for a PhD in Orcadian bronze age) that it is second nature. Time for brekky! Orkney smoked salmon. Yum. Really trying hard to avoid the carbs. It's Carb Land here - chips, bread, potatoes, biscuits.... Arrrggghhhh! I have a punnet of fresh raspberries which are absolutely scrumptious.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jen, lovin' your work! Keep up the scribing (or scribbling - whatever fits!)