The Scilly - Tramore Group




The Scilly - Tramore Group


 Similarities Of The Scilly Isles  Entrance Graves


The Isles of Scilly are a beautiful archipelago of five inhabited islands and numerous other small rocky islets which lie 28 miles off Lands End in Cornwall, England.

Like Cornwall, their past is rooted in Celtic culture akin to that of Ireland and thus it comes as little surprise, that the early settlers of Scilly constructed prehistoric burial tombs which bear a distinct resemblance to those found in Ireland, particularly the passage tombs found in County Waterford.

Hence, the ‘Scilly – Tramore’ group is so called because of the similarities between the Isles of Scilly Entrance Graves and a small number of Passage Graves in Waterford. Some of the Waterford tombs have many of these Entrance Grave features, particularly the tombs at Carriglong and Harristown suggesting that there may well have been was a strong Tramore-Scilly connection in prehistoric times.


Of the Scilly tombs, Bant’s Cairn (below) on the island of St. Mary’s, is one of the best known and most well preserved. It consists of an outer platform surrounding an inner cairn or mound containing a slab-built chamber. The mound is about 26 feet (8 metres) long and 20 feet (6 metres) wide, retained by a well-made kerb of stone slabs; a second kerb retains the lower platform around the mound. The mound may once have been more than 13 feet (4 metres) high, so that it would have entirely covered the boat-shaped, stone-lined burial chamber whose roof is now exposed. The chamber itself, 17 feet (5.25 metres) long by 5 feet (1.5 metres) wide, is much higher than most other entrance graves – up to 5 feet (1.5 metres) in places – and is roofed with four enormous capstones. A stone-lined entrance passage, now roofless, leads from the outer kerb to the entrance of the burial chamber.



Further chambered tombs or entrance graves can be seen at Innisidgen, also on St. Mary’s. Here are two fine examples of the Bronze Age (around 2500–750 BC) ceremonial monuments built on hilltops and coastal plateaux. These two graves were constructed on a hill overlooking what was in prehistoric times a wide valley. Their present position beside the coast is the result of the rise in sea level that took place over many hundreds of years. Now they overlook the waters of Crow Sound between the beautiful islands of Tresco and St. Martin’s.

The upper Innisidgen burial chamber, or Innisidgen Carn, (below) is well preserved. The mound measures 30 feet (9 metres) by 26 feet (8 metres), and is currently about 6 ft (2 metres) high. The surrounding wall or kerb is substantial: nearly 3 feet (1 metres) high on the north side. Slight traces of an outer platform, up to 6 feet (2 metres) wide, surround the mound. A short, open passage on the eastern side leads to the entrance, which is covered by a massive slab. Four further capstones make up the roof of a rectangular burial chamber 15 feet (4.5 metres) long and about 5 feet (1.5 metres) high. The Lower Innisidgen entrance grave, (90 metres) to the north-west, is damaged and retains only two of its capstones. Parts of the kerb of the mound survive, while the mound itself incorporates outcrops of rock. The entrance to the chamber is on the south side.



The similarity in proportions of these tombs found on Scilly does suggest that a strong connection with Waterford was quite likely in the past, given that the Isles of Scilly lie only 266km (165 miles) almost due south by sea from county Waterford and that the inhabitants of the time could very likely have voyaged between the two communities.


Uncovered Harristown Passage Tomb, Waterford


Today, Scilly is made up of five inhabited islands, but given the archaeological findings which have been made at low tide it is quite certain that the archipelago was all one island in Prehistoric times.

Besides the entrance tombs, the islands, which today are designated as an AONB ( ‘Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty’) have a heavy concentration of rich archaeological remains with much to explore such as prehistoric houses and settlements, ritual sites, field systems and standing stones.


Scilly - Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty



This article first published Nov 2013






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