Archives and Research

Holm of Papa Westray Stonework Survey 2018

Front cover of the stonework survey report

This report provides an interpretive account of the interior stonework and decoration within the Holm of Papa Westray South chambered cairn, Papa Westray, Orkney, based on survey work undertaken by the author in June 2018 and funded by Historic Environment Scotland through the PIC Archaeology Grants Programme.

Thirty-four areas of possible marking or decoration have been identified in the tomb and are discussed in this report. All of the recorded marks appear to have been executed by pecking or grinding, with the exception of one lightly incised example which was recorded in the 1990s. Interpretation of these is cautious, however, because of the level of algal growth and surface degradation on much of the stonework, and the high concentration of stones with geological features forming ‘cups’ and meandering lines. Nevertheless, the unusually high number of these naturally marked stones suggests that many of these were deliberately chosen for inclusion in the cairn, and many of these have been considered worthy of discussion.

In addition, several examples of previously unrecorded motifs, which can be compared to Neolithic examples from other sites in Orkney, were also identified and recorded. Some of these appear to correspond with carvings which were illustrated in the 1850s but thought to be no longer extant, whilst some of these are being presented for the first time. A detailed cross-referencing of antiquarian records, and archival research, was also undertaken and is discussed in the report.