Knowe of Ramsay, Rousay

Tombs of the Isles - Knowe of Ramsay, Rousay.
Knowe of Ramsay plan.
(Davidson & Henshall. 1989. The Chambered Cairns of Orkney)
Rectangular cairn.
Stalled chamber.
Notes:Built near the edge of one of the natural terraces above the shore, the Knowe of Ramsay overlooks the Knowe of Lairo and stands a short distance to the north-west of the Knowe of Yarso.

Excavated by Callander and Grant in 1935, it was found to have been severely robbed and disturbed.

Aligned SE to NW, the cairn was 31.4m long 31.4m long and increased in width from 4.5m at the entrance to 7.3m at the north-western, rounded end.

The entrance was in the south-eastern end and access was by a passage 1.9m long, 0.5m wide, and 0.7m high.

The inner chamber was 26.8m long and increased in width from 1 .2m at the entrance to 2m near the inner end – making it the largest chamber known in Orkney. It had been divided into 14 compartments by 13 pairs of orthostats – of which five were missing. In 1989, Davidson and Henshall suggested that the four outer compartments were an addition to the original ten.

The excavators noted signs of burning in all the compartments from the sixth to the eleventh, sometimes on the side walls and occasionally in the centre.

According to Davidson and Henshall, the “practical difficulty of [lighting fires] in the confined space prompts speculation that the roof was not in place, so these fires may have been lit before the chamber was finished or at the time it was sealed, or both.”

As well as animal bone, the excavators found human remains but in a poor state of preservation. Bone of one adult came from the third and the fragmentary remains of what was interpreted as an elderly male were in the fifth compartment. Some of these were scorched.

Two fragments of a humerus and femur were also recovered from the eighth compartment.

Three radiocarbon dates secured from the animal remains gave dates of 3350 to 2550 cal BC; 3350 to 2600 cal BC and 2900 to 2200 cal BC.

On the north-eastern side of the cairn, c1.4m from the south-eastern end, a secondary wall butted against the cairn and ran for 2.4m. This wall, 0.76m wide and 0.84 m high, contained a small recess.
Rousay map
Chambered cairns on the south/south-western coast of Rousay.
(Hutchison et al. 2015. The Knowe of Rowiegar, Rousay, Orkney: description and dating of the human remains and context relative to neighbouring cairns)
Knowe of Ramsay section drawings and plans.
(Callander & Grant. 1936. A stalled cairn, the Knowe of Ramsay, at Hullion, Rousay, Orkney)