Maeshowe

What was the treasure of Maeshowe? One of the great architectural feats of prehistoric Europe, Maeshowe is a large mound containing an entrance passage and burial chambers, built with fine stone slabs. The excellence of the mason work goes far beyond that of any other tomb. At the winter solstice, the setting sun shines directly down the passage onto the back wall.


In 1861 it was broken into by J. Farrer, who discovered that earlier explorers had been there before him: twelfth century Vikings who left behind many runic inscriptions. Five of these refer to hidden treasure. Another inscription reads, 'Crusaders opened this mound'. Only gold or silver would have been considered treasure by Vikings, and the possibility of its being interred with the original burials is remote. Current opinion is that Maeshowe was used for the burial of a Viking chief in the early Norse occupation of Orkney, and it was his trove that was stolen three centuries later.