Hermisgarth, Sanday

Tombs of the Isles - Hermisgarth, Sanday

(Mill Sheed)

Notes:A possible chambered cairn, lying around 180 metres to the north-west of the farm of Hermisgarth, in a field locally known as Mill Sheed.

Little is known about the site, other than the fact agricultural work before 1928 revealed a chamber within the mound with possible passages radiating north and south.

Nothing remains of the mound/chamber today and the site was not included in Davidson and Henshall’s list of chambered cairns in 1989.

In 1980, county archaeologist Raymond Lamb classed it a souterrain/earthhouse, which fits with the scant surviving evidence. The chamber was discovered when farm machinery broke through its roof, suggesting there was no cairn around/over the structure, which appears to have been subterranean.

However, in April 1998, the Crantit cairn, outside Kirkwall, was found the same way. Crantit was undoubtedly a subterranean Neolithic tomb, although unlike the majority found in Orkney.

The excavators concluded it represented a transition – a change from the Neolithic chambered cairns to the cist burials of the Bronze Age. However, it is also possible that Crantit represented a style of chambered cairn that, although atypical in the current archaeological record, was more common in the Neolithic.
References:Davidson, J. L. & Henshall, A. S. (1989). The Chambered Cairns of Orkney. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Lamb, R. (1980) Archaeological sites and Monuments of Sanday and North Ronaldsay.