In this article, you will learn about the Barnhouse Neolithic Settlement (located on the Orkney Islands) and St Magnus Cathedral, which caused one man to lose his life in a rather painful manner.
Barnhouse Neolithic Settlement
A trip to Stenness, Orkney Islands brings visitors to a settlement at Barnhouse, which offers one of the more recent finds on Orkney , in regards to ancient locations. An impressive collection of stone tools and burnt bone was discovered close to the Stones of Stenness. Other features include the Stenness circle and the Maes Howe burial mound. In 1986, the site became a point of excavation, where about ten different structures were found to have been occupied over long stretches of time.
When comparing the circular houses at Skara Brae in the earlier times, this settlement is also quite early with around six small houses in a much similar style. A more intricate building (larger in size) served as a center for which all the other houses were built around. The Skara Brae houses were situated in the sand, but Barnhouse construction displayed more of a free-standing arrangement. Typical characteristics of the houses included a centralized square hearth and stone box beds. There was also evidence of dresser-type items present within the homes.
St Magnus Cathedral
Travel to Kirkwall, Orkney Islands and you will find St Magnus Cathedral , a wondrous site positioned in the north. As the northernmost cathedral in Britain, construction on St Magnus was most likely first started in about 1137 when the Earl Rognvald (a nephew of Magnus) ordered its creation. If you are wondering who the heck Magnus was , he was the son of Erlend (a co-ruler of the earldom at the time).
When Magnus was a youth, he was brought along for the ride on a raiding adventure that took him throughout the Hebrides and Anglesey. Accompanying King Magnus of Norway, it was there that he witnessed the attack of two earls of Welsh descent. Legend has it that Magnus did not want to fight and instead, belted out psalms while death and destruction took place all around him. To say the least, King Magnus was not a happy camper and as a result, the younger Magnus took the opportunity to flee the ship in the middle of the night.
Later on, the death of King Magnus allowed the younger Magnus to return to Orkney. By this time, Erlend and Paul (the other co-rulers) had died as well and Hakon (the son of Paul) had become earl. Magnus decided to submit his claim to his share of the earldom, which led to a meeting between the two that occurred in 1117. Hakon had other plans and instead of sitting down for a one-on-one, he seized Magnus. He ordered his cook (Lifolf) to murder Magnus.
In the end, he took an ax and hit him over the head with it. The exact truth behind this tale is questionable, but when renovation took place on the cathedral in 1919, workers found something rather curious located close to a couple of loose stones situated high in one of the cathedral pillars. Upon further investigation of behind the cavity , a wooden casket containing human remains was uncovered. Inside, a skull that showed signs of being split by an ax was found.