An “incredibly rare” Neolithic tomb was recently found buried under a field in the United Kingdom, officials said.
The stone tomb, which is about 5,000 years old, was unearthed during an excavation in Orkney, an archipelago in Scotland’s Northern Isles, according to an Oct. 24 news release from the National Museums Scotland.
The dig was initiated to follow up on an 1896 report of ancient stone ruins in the area.
Upon excavating the area, archaeologists uncovered the remains of a massive, 50-foot-wide stone mound, known as a cairn. A large portion of it had been dismantled during the 18th and 19th centuries to supply materials for a farmhouse.
Inside the damaged cairn, a 23-foot-long passage led to a central chamber, which was surrounded by six smaller rooms.
This style of tomb is referred to as a “‘Maes Howe-type’ passage grave,” which is a rarity in the region, officials said.
“They are considered the pinnacle of Neolithic engineering in northern Britain,” officials said.
Fourteen skeletons belonging to men, women and children were located inside the main chamber, while smaller assemblages of bones, stone tools, pottery and a bone pin were found nearby.
“Orkney is exceptionally rich in archaeology, but we never expected to find a tomb of this size in a such a small-scale excavation,” Hugo Anderson-Whymark, the excavation director, said in the release.
“It’s incredible to think this once impressive monument was nearly lost without record,” Anderson-Whymark added, “but fortunately just enough stonework has survived for us to be able understand the size, form and construction of this tomb.”