MHG2025 - Cists and possible burnt mound, Reiss Links, Ackergill


A mound, possibly natural, into which four cists have been inserted. Evidence of burning also raises the possibility that this represents secondary use of a burnt mound.

Type and Period (5)

  • (Former Type) CAIRN? (Unknown date)
  • MOUND (Unknown date)
  • LONG CIST (Early Iron Age to Early Medieval - 550 BC? to 1057 AD?)
  • NATURAL FEATURE? (Undated)
  • (Alternate Type) BURNT MOUND? (Bronze Age - 2400 BC? to 551 BC?)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

ND35NW 9 3403 5674.
On Reiss Links there is a cairn of earth and stones covered over with turf. E side has been cut away revealing down to undisturbed sand two flagstones placed end to end; N slab measures 3ft 9ins by 1ft 11ins. The dug-away side of cairn measured 19ft in length along face from N to S, and breadth is 9ft. There is a shallow ditch or trench around it. On surface at foot of slabs are numerous fragments of red clay burnt hard. On excavation, four cist-like graves were discovered; puddled red clay, in part hard from the action of fire, and pieces of bone were found but no pottery. The dampness of the cairn, in which rounded granite stones were disintegrating, would account for disappearance of skeleton. Some charcaol was found and much blackened earth, but nothing else apart from periwinkles. Info contained in Mss notes of L Duff-Dunbar dated 26 May 1933, now held by R B Gourlay, Highland Region Archaeologist.

ND 3405 5670. An oval mound, 36 by 24 m, with large stones and two upright stones at SE end.
C E Batey 1981. <1>

The 'cairn' examined by Duff-Dunbar and mound described and planned by Batey are one and same, located at ND 3403 5674 in a valley between consolidated dunes, now within a golf course; a tee position intrudes on E side. The plan by Batey is generally correct though margins are indistinct; mound is turf-covered and apparently composed of earth and sand, though some rubble stones show on S side. The slabs, laid end-to-end, protrude 0.25m from top of mound and upright immediately S of these stones are 0.35 and 0.4m high, latter being slightly inclined.
Duff-Dunbar's notes do not specify at what level the four cist-like graves were found, nor whether pieces of bone were human. The structure exposed on top of mound, whatever its function, appears to be intrusive. The mound itself is amorphous and cannot be categorised as sepulchral; it may be a low, natural dune into which graves have been inserted. Numerous long cists have been discovered in dunes between Keiss (ND 34 60) and Ackergill (ND 34 55), including one where a pair of headstones were found (ND35SW 5) and it seems that this structure is a cist with or without a cairn. However, existence of burnt red clay, charcoal and blackened earth may suggest a roasting hearth or a burnt mound; there is a stream immediately to N.
Surveyed at 1:10,000. Visitd by OS (N K B) 2 September 1982.

According to the paper files (scanned and linked to this record) the manuscript by L Duff-Dunbar was in Caithness Museum in 1982. This museum no longer exists and the current whereabouts of this manuscript are unclear. This information will be updated when the manuscript has been located. <2>

Canmore ID 9128 describes "A cairn at Reiss Links was excavated by Mrs. Duff-Dunbar in 1933. The cairn measures 19' by 9' (orientated NE - SW), with traces of a shallow ditch around it. Two large flagstones placed end to end were exposed together with four 'cist-like' graves sealed with red clay
Information from R Gourlay 1980, MS/467 ".
This must surely be a duplicate of this current record. It was formerly recorded separately in the HER as MHG2017 but that record has now been revoked. <3><4>

Sources/Archives (4)



Grid reference Centred ND 3403 5674 (14m by 14m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND35NW
Civil Parish WICK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (2)

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