Video: Maeshowe and the winter solstice

“The sun weakened, until at the solstice it made a brief silver arc between south-east and south-west.”
George Mackay Brown. Poet and Prince: A Fable.

This Friday, December 22, is the winter solstice – a day inextricably linked to Maeshowe in Stenness.

With its south-westerly facing entrance, Maeshowe’s best known attribute is its orientation towards the setting sun around midwinter (read more here).

Five thousand years ago, as now, it may be that the solstice marked the passing of time – the death of the old year and the birth of the new one. Even today, in the dark depths of an Orkney winter, the solstice remains a welcome indicator that the light is returning.

This video was originally broadcast in 2021.

Presented by Word Heritage Site ranger Sandra Miller, it features Professor Colin Richards and Dr Ragnhild Ljosland of the UHI Archaeology Institute, Tom Muir and Alison Miller.

The light of the setting sun striking the rear wall of Maeshowe's central chamber. (Historic Environment Scotland)
The light of the midwinter setting sun striking the rear wall of Maeshowe’s central chamber. (📷 Historic Environment Scotland)

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