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Maeshowe Chambered Cairn
Maeshowe Chambered Cairn

Maeshowe Chambered Cairn

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Maeshowe Chambered Cairn is a chambered tomb in northern Scotland that is more than 5,000 years old. It is considered to be the finest Neolithic building in northwest Europe due to its design, stonework construction, and use of massive individual stones. At first Maeshowe appears to be just a large grassy mound, but visitors can enter from a single door. A 33 foot long stone passageway leads into a small stone chamber in the center. The chamber is only about 15 feet across. Three side rooms made of single slabs of stone are attached to the main chamber. The entire structure was designed so that light would shine down the passageway at sunset every day from three weeks before to three weeks after the shortest day of the year.

At least 3,000 years after Maeshowe was closed up, Norsemen broke into the chamber. They left behind light-hearted runic graffiti all over the walls. It is the largest collection of runic inscriptions outside Scandinavia and serves as a reminder that Orkney was under Norwegian rule until 1468.

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Orkney, Scotland

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