The tomb is entered through a narrow, low passage, but once inside it is possible to stand up and the space is very different to that of the cramped entranceway. This contrast is deliberate; it marks the interior as a separate, significant space, and it may well have been that only certain members of the community could go inside. Though we call these sites ‘tombs’ they are likely to have served a far more complex role that included repeated re-entry to the chamber and various activities inside over many decades. The bones of the deceased were clearly important and it seems that the decaying of flesh marked a meaningful transition, perhaps from person to ancestor.
Architecture and Contents
Large upright slabs divide the interior of Unstan into stalls, with horizontal shelves at each end of the chamber. Unusually, there is also a single side chamber. Unstan was excavated in 1884 by a local antiquarian, RS Clouston. He recorded the remains of several individuals in both the main chamber and the side chamber, together with sherds of pottery and the flint tips of arrowheads.