bad weather photography, Tomb of the Eagles, Isbister, Mainland, South Ronaldsay, Orkney, Scotland
© Annie Wright Photography

Tomb of the Eagles shelter that was once a German WWII ambulance before being used as a mobile home for crossing the Sahara. But for me, this photo is not so much about the structure’s history as the fabulous glamour of its decay. Location: Isbister, South Ronaldsay, Orkney.

Tomb of the Eagles

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[1] that cemented the tomb’s name.[2]

Eagle bones

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 (Haliaeetus albicilla) 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.[2]