Sandhill Smithy, Eday

Tombs of the Isles - Sandhill Smithy, Eday
Type:Orkney-Cromarty.
Round cairn.
Tripartite chamber.
Location:Map
Notes:On excavation in 1937, the cairn was found to have a diameter of 8 m, with walls surviving to a height of 0.35m. The entrance passage opened from the ESE side. Its remaining length was 2.2m, with the inner end partly destroyed.

The chamber had been about 3.4m long, 1.6m wide at the east end widening to 1.9m at the west end. It was divided into three compartments by two pairs of orthostats.

On the south side of the end compartment was a “bench” formed of a horizontal slab, 0.05 m thick, supported
by the end and side walls at a height of 0.02 to 0.03m above the floor, and at its east end by an orthostats. Remains of a similar bench were found in the north side of this compartment. There was no evidence of benches in the other companments.

The chamber floor was of clay, probably natural. Embedded in the floor of the centre compartment were pottery sherds and some fairly large pieces of charcoal (willow), and the clay round about was discoloured
by soot and burning.

The excavator, Charles Calder, proposed that the chamber had been partly destroyed in antiquity, though this interference does not appear to have affected the outer parts of the cairn.

He wrote: “The wall-face of the entrance end and those of the northern stalls in the middle and inmost comparments, together with their dividing upright slab, had been torn out down to the very foundations. So complete a removal suggests that the destruction must have been done purposely, as there was no indication
that the walls had caved in of themselves.

“This condition is probably due to a much later domestic occupation of the chamber, which was attested by a thin layer of compacted peaty earth, representing a secondary floor.

“The accumulation rested on a layer of blown sand 10 or 12 inches above the original floor, and it was thickest in the central compartment. Through it were traces of burning and several flakes of flint were gathered from its surface .”

Calder was also told, in 1936/37, that the mound had been dug into “many years” previously, but concluded that the attempted incursion could not have been extensive.
Links:Canmore
Excavations of Three Neolithic Chambered Cairns-One with an Upper and a Lower Chamber-in the Islands of Eday and the Calf of Eday in Orkney. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Volume 72 (1937-38)