Tomb of the Eagles, South Ronaldsay

#1 of 7 in Things to do in South Ronaldsay
The Tomb of the Eagles, or Isbister Chambered Cairn, is a Neolithic chambered tomb located on a cliff edge at Isbister on South Ronaldsay in Orkney, Scotland. First explored by Ronald Simison, a farmer, when digging flagstones in 1958, he conducted his own excavations at the site in 1976. Alerted by Simison, archaeologist John Hedges then mounted a full study, prepared a technical report and wrote a popular book that cemented the tomb's name.16,000 human bones were found at the site, as well as 725 from birds. These were identified as predominantly belonging to the white-tailed sea eagle and represented between 8 and 20 individuals. These were originally interpreted as a foundation deposit; however, this interpretation has been challenged by new dating techniques. These reveal that the eagles died c. 2450–2050 BCE, up to 1,000 years after the building of the tomb. This confirms growing evidence from other sites that the neolithic tombs of Orkney remained in use for many generations.In January 2017 the tomb was featured in the BBC Two archaeology series Britain's Ancient Capital: Secrets of Orkney.
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
344 reviews
  • August 18, 2017
    The visit starts with a couple of talks about the site and of a Bronze Age building and a view of actual artefacts some of which can be handled. The Tomb is a mile walk away on the clifftop. The Bronz...  more »
  • August 18, 2017
    A few miles from Kirkwall, this archaeological site has a well preserved bronze age settlement. In the Visitor Center you can watch 2 presentations (in English, but with the ability to have explanatory cards in their own language) before walking about 1 mile walk along the cliff to reach the grave. The expectation created during presentations is partially betrayed by the size of the Tomb (smaller than pictured) and the ruins visible on the site (a few skulls in a cavity protected by gratings). Fun to go to the grave through a narrow and low tunnel only passable on all fours or sliding on your back on a kind of skateboard (not suitable for those who suffer from claustrophobia) on a sunny day you can enjoy a beautiful landscape, but in case of rain and low clouds a visit to grave loses much of its value.
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  • August 17, 2017
    Interesting visitor centre and talks before we walked up to the iron age broch. We then walked up to the tomb. A 4 wheeled bogie took us into the tomb which was great fun. Inside the tomb was fascinat...  more »
  • The girls do talks in the two rooms and you stay till you've heard what they have to say. Basically they go round in a circle and so just leave when you've heard it all. Then walk to the tomb. Nice enough walk via the old ruins of a settlement. There's an old German Ambulance come campervan there. The tomb is good, great to go in hands and knees or on the board. Free knee pads for use if required. Paths can be muddy. Coastal path back highly recommended. Part was closed due to nesting birds.
  • Very interesting how people lived and died. This is worth seeing. You will never forget this visit to the Orkney islands.
  • At first we weren't sure if a trip to this tomb and museum is really worth the time and entrence fee, since we already saw a lot of neolithic and bronze age settlements, tombs and so on. But this one was quite different and thus a really great experience. The tomb itself was, thanks to its concrete ceiling, rather less charming and atmospheric compared to other tombs . It's the exhibition and the staff that makes the tomb of the eagles outstanding. We were welcomed and informed about the tomb and what to expect at the museum in our native langague (german), since an employee's mother came from Germany and he heard us talking in german. Before getting on the short hike to the tomb and a nearby bronze age site, we got a lecture about the life, tools, meals, diseases and burying rites of this areas neolithic people. They had a lot of finds which were taken out of the glass showcases and could be touched and hold by us (except a few very fragile ones and the skulls, which I find very reasonable). A really stunning experience to hold a stone pestle which was used around 5.000 years ago! The museum is far from crowded - the presentation and lecture was made for only the two of us and 3 other visitors, at the tomb we were alone. The staff was very communicative and interested in how we liked everything, where we came from and so on - I even got hugged when finally saying goodbye :)
  • Heavily rebuilt to say the least. Not with Historic Scotland and personally I would say worth a single visit only.
  • Informative, interesting and has changed my understanding of how civilisations develop. A real wow!

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