Sandyhill Smithy, Eday

Tombs of the Isles - Sandhill Smithy, Eday
Round cairn.
Tripartite chamber.
Notes:On excavation in 1937, the cairn was found to have a diameter of 8m, 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, 0.05m 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 orthostat.

Remains of a similar “bench” were found in the north side of this compartment. There was no evidence of benches in the other compartments.

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 compartments, 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 he concluded that the attempted incursion could not have been extensive.