Live /

Over 20 of our staffed sites have now reopened and we are delighted to welcome you back. Booking in advance is essential. Find out more and book now

x
 

History

Part of the landscape

Orkney is home to a World Heritage Site and features an abundance of Neolithic monuments, dating from about 5000 years ago. Blackhammer is among them, one of 15 chambered cairns on the island of Rousay.

Entrance today is by ladder, but a low, narrow entrance passage originally led into Blackhammer’s long central chamber.

When it was first built, the chamber was divided into seven stalls, but at some point a wall was built across the middle. This resulted in the removal of four upright slabs and reducing the accessible space.

One of the most interesting features of Blackhammer is the decorative stonework: the stone slabs which form the external wall have been carefully arranged to dramatic visual effect which is similar to patterns found incised on stones at other Neolithic sites.

Life and death

Excavations in the 1930s revealed:

  • two adult male skeletons
  • fragments of animal bone
  • a bone pin
  • a polished stone axe of plain grey-green stone
  • Neolithic pottery

We do not know whether the artefacts were grave-goods buried with an individual, or objects used during burial rites.

Evidence suggests the chambered tombs were visited by the living. People certainly visited new internments, and may have also visited during important festivals. The tombs may also have been cleared out periodically.

Historic Scotland

Opening times

This site is closed. We’re working hard to gradually reopen the places you love while making sure the experience is safe for everyone.

Facilities

Download our visitor app

Discover more on the go – the Historic Scotland app lets you find out about Scotland’s most iconic places wherever you are.

Plan your visit

More than 20 of our sites are now open. Please book your tickets in advance.

Become a member

Join Historic Scotland to visit our properties free of charge for a full year and support our work at the same time.

Hire a site for filming

Use one of our fantastic locations on your next shoot for an awe-inspiring backdrop to your work.

Learning visits

Our 300+ historic places serve as creative inspiration for all sorts of learning activities – and for learners of all ages.

Search our events

See the past brought to life by the imaginative year-round programme of events at our properties.