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Who was the cairn used by?

The initial excavation of the site in 1869 identified a marked difference in the size of the males and females who were buried in the tomb. The report of the excavation describes the men of ‘gigantic proportions’ whilst the women were described as ‘short and gracile’ (slender build). This may have been somewhat over-romanticised, but nonetheless there was a significant difference between the builds of the genders.

Musculoskeletal analysis suggests that the men may have been more mobile in terms of hunting or herding lifestyles, resulting in the development of significant leg muscle. By contrast, the women tended not to have such muscle development, perhaps due to a less mobile lifestyle brought about by looking after children.

The health of teeth and bones, assessed through isotope analysis, showed that the populations in the tomb were unlikely to be reliant on a cereal based farming system and more likely to have been hunters and/or herders. There was little cereal or other plant food consumed and instead the diet comprised mainly animal based food such as meat, blood and milk. Surprisingly, given a location so close to the sea, there was no evidence of marine based foods. Speculation for this includes the idea that the coastal area was controlled by a different community or that fishing and marine activities simply didn’t feature in the Neolithic lifestyle of hunting and/or herding.