MHG11630 - Chambered Cairn - Embo


No summary available.

Type and Period (1)

  • CHAMBERED ROUND CAIRN (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2401 BC) + Sci.Date

Protected Status

Full Description

Report to John Wood that there are cupmarks on some of the chamber stones - HAW 10/2003

NH89SW 9 8177 9265.

An Orkney-Cromarty type round cairn with 2 chambers and intrusive short cists and cremations lay 111' NNE of Boston House on the links at about NH 8175 9265. It was a small, irregular, inconspicuous, turf and sand covered, oval mound, measuring about 42' by 30' which had obviously been much disturbed before 1956 when the first excavation took place (Henshall and Taylor 1959) A rescue dig was undertaken in July 1960 when the landowner proposed to remove the cairn to make a car-park. It proved to be of such interest that it was preserved in car-park, although soft sand-stone of orthostats is weathering rapidly. The lower part of cairn was of large flat slabs beneath a mixture of sand and rounded irregular boulders. There was no definite edging to the cairn, but there was a rough kerb on SE side, 9' from chamber. There was no definite evidence for southern chamber with a smaller cairn being earlier, but northern might be an addition to the original plan. The passage and entrance to southern chamber had been deliberately blocked.
One cist had been set into southern chamber, and contained an intact food-vessel and jet beads. The other had been inserted into the centre of the cairn and contained the skeletons of two babies accompanied by a foodvessel and beaker sherds. A speck of corroded bronze lay near the centre.
Of nine cremations found, one was accompanied by fragments of a MBA bifid bronze razor, another by part of a bronze blade, probably part of a razor.
The finds were donated to NMAS by landowner, J Macintosh of Embo House.
A S Henshall and H W Y Taylor 1959; A S Henshall and J C Wallace 1965;
J M Coles 1966; Information from MS of Chambered Cairns of Scotland, by A S Henshall.

An Orkney-Cromarty chambered cairn as described and planned by Henshall, preserved within an iron railing at NH 8177 9265 in the forecourt of "Grannies Heilan' Hame".
The two chambers and the central cist with capstone survive, but the cist within the S chamber is not evident. The cairn is truncated in the E by the railing and car-park.
Surveyed at 1/2500. Visited by OS (A A) 23 March 1971.

Full description. A S Henshall 1972.
NH89SW 9 8177 9265.

A low mound excavated in 1956 and 1960 was found to be the remains of a stone cairn containing two neolithic burial chambers and also bronze-age graves. Only the base of the structures is preserved, but the excavated chambers can be viewed with the covering mound removed and give an excellent view of the overall plan and of features not visible in other cairns.
The main chamber is entered from the south, where a short passage with drystone walls leads first into an antechamber and then into the chamber proper, an oval area constructed of six upright slabs with drystone walling between. Most of the original corbelled roof had been destroyed before excavation. At least six ad ults and nine children had been buried in this chamber before it was blocked up. At the other end of the cairn a short passage opens into a second ruined chamber formed of five upright slabs originally linked by drystone walling. Most of this chamber had been disturbed before excavation. Bones of animals and birds, including dog, pig, otter, great auk, duck, guillemot and gannet were found both in the filling of the main chamber and in the body of the cairn.
Part of the original cairn material remains on the west side and beside the passage on the south. The original mound would have been higher, but something the shape of the fenced area. The neolithic cairn was again used as a burial place in the early bronze age, when two stone cists were inserted into the mound. In one, which has been removed, a woman was buried with a food vessel pot and a necklace of black jet beads. The other cist can be seen in the centre of the cairn between the two chambers. It is formed of four stones set on edge and was covered by a flagstone. It contained the bones of two babies, a food vessel pot and a corded beaker. Later in the bronze age cremation burials were inserted into the cairn, one with a bronze razor.
Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Highlands’, (1995).

Application for scheduled monument consent to erect a sandstone wall 350mm high and to cut off the existing sign a t ground level and erect a new sign (850mm by 600mm) on a stone plinth at the end of the proposed wall within the scheduled area of the SAM.
Scheduled Monument Consent granted on 13/02/02.
See assoc. docs. File.
J Aitken : 19/02/02.

Two photographs of the fallen stones of the souther chamber of the passage cairn were submitted by Douglas Scott in July 2011. One of the photographs highlights a large cupmark on one of the fallen stones. <2>

Radiocarbon dates from four different samples of human remains found in the N and S chambers were obtained and published as part of National Museums Scotland Radiocarbon Dating Programme in 2006. These produced Neolithic dates; 2575-2485 cal BC, 3500-3360 cal BC, 3320-2940 cal BC and 3500-3360 cal BC (calibrated to 1 sigma). See DES 2006 for more information on the dating of the material. <3>

Four DNA samples from Embo were included in the 'A summary round-up list of Scottish archaeological human remains that have been sampled/analysed for DNA as of January 2019', available online through DES. This also includes references to where the DNA results have been published. A radiocarbon date from one of these samples was also obtained, producing a Neolithic date of 3263-2877 BC, calibrated to 2 sigma. <4>

There are a number of finds from the chambered cairn that are unstratified, and are attached to this record. See finds report included in the 1962-3 PSAS article on the excavations for details of all the finds.

Finds listed in the NMS catalogue from this site include pottery sherds (Acc. No. EQ 612, EQ 632), a flint knife (EQ 613) and a spindle whorl (EQ 636). See MHG45275 and MHG45278 for finds from the cists and cremations inserted into the cairn. <5>

Human remains from the site are within NMS collections. <6>

Sources/Archives (13)



Grid reference Centred NH 8177 9266 (80m by 80m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH89SW
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish DORNOCH

Finds (5)

  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2401 BC)
  • SHERD (Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC? to 551 BC?)
  • KNIFE (Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC? to 551 BC?)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC? to 551 BC?)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 551 BC) + Sci.Date

Related Monuments/Buildings (3)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (4)

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