Sand quarrying in 1989 at Sand Fiold, Sandwick, in Orkney resulted in the accidental discovery of a rock-cut chamber containing a cist. Subsequent excavation revealed that this cist had a number of unusual features. The cist slabs had been fitted together exceptionally well and the completed cist was designed to be re-opened by the removal of a side slab. Within the chamber, access was provided to the opening side of the cist and a relieving structure was built over its capstone.
The cist contained cremation and inhumation burials that had been inserted on more than one occasion; as its builders intended. A collection of poorly preserved unburnt bone was found to comprise the remains of two individuals: a young adult and a foetus. Two collections of cremated bone, each derived from a single adult, were also present; one in a Food Vessel Urn, the second forming a pile on the floor and containing two burnt antler tines and two unburnt human teeth. The un-urned cremation deposit and the unburnt bones had been covered in mats of plant fibres derived from grass and sedge. The urn had been lined with basketry, also made from grass. Outside the cist, an exceptionally large collection of fuel ash slag (FAS), derived from a cremation pyre, had been deposited between the cist and the wall of the rock-cut chamber.
Radiocarbon dates indicate that the site and its contents had a long history. The FAS and the foetus skeleton date to 2900–2500 cal BC. Between 2200 and 1900 cal BC the urned cremation and young adult human bones were inserted and charcoal was deposited in the foundation slots for the back wall of the cist. The deposition of the un-urned cremation was dated to 1000–800 cal BC, some 900 years later, when the urn had already fallen over and broken. At this time, it is assumed that the urn was restored to an upright position and propped with stones, while the stone lid for the urn was reused in the foundation slot of the left-hand side of the cist. Reuse and refurbishment over two millennia seem evidenced in the results from this cist.