MHG2135 - Cemetery, Ackergill
No summary available.
Type and Period (1)
- BURIAL GROUND (Early Iron Age to Early Medieval - 550 BC to 1057 AD) + Sci.Date
- None recorded
See records for ND35SE0318 (MHG32692) for damage to the cemetery that occurred during sand quarrying operations up to December 2003. The also appears to be extensive rabbit damage in the area to the S of the main mound. Some of these areas appear to be tuning up human as well as other bones - HAW 4/2004
ND35SW 12 3489 5496.
Dark Age Burial Ground (NR) (site of) Symbol Stones found (NAT)
OS 25" map, (1965)
A linear inhumation cemetery in a natural, elongated, sand mound was excavated in 1925 and 1926 by Edwards who found sixteen burials in ten separate graves. All except one of the burials were extended inhumations, and, again excepting one, none was accompanied by grave goods. Most were in long cists, about 6ft in length and 1ft 6ins in breath and height, covered by low, rectangular, kerbed deposits of stone.
The mound, cut 400ft from its NW end by drain from decoy pond at ND 3493 5494, had also been cut lengthwise by a road, during construction of which human remains had been found. For a distance of about 200ft from its NW end mound was heavily eroded exposing stones including edge-set slabs, but remainder was still turf-covered. An Ogham-inscribed Class I symbol stone had formerly stood erect at NW end of mound, and a fragment of another was found on surface at its centre.
Graves 1 and 7 (on Edward's 1926 plans) were simple long cists. Graves 2, 3, 4, 8, 9 and 10 were rectangular or square kerbed deposits of stone ranging in area from 6ft by 7ft to 12ft square, and in height from 1ft to 1ft 9ins, either incorporating (graves 2 and 4) or overlying long cists. In some of these structures corners were accentuated by upright stones or large slabs (graves 2, 3 and 4) and mid-points of N and S sides of grave 4 were similarly accentuated. Graves 3 and 4 were covered by a layer of white quartzite pebbles. Graves 5 and 6 were apparently more sophisticated than others although they possessed enough points of similarity to suggest kinship.
Grave 5 was, in effect, a sub-oval built chamber 10ft NW-SE by 3ft 6ins across and 1ft 6ins high with walls 5 to 7ft thick kerbed externally by a 20 by 13ft 6ins rectangular setting of large slabs on edge, corners and mid-points of long sides being accentuated. The chamber was divided by edge-set slabs, 1ft high, to form two adjoining long cists, slab-covered. Apart from a slight corbelling of the walls there was nothing to suggest that chamber had been roofed; in fact contrary was suggested by wall-tops having been over- laid by white quartzite pebbles.
Grave 6, at NW end of mound and on N side of road, differed from others in its cairn-like form and in mode of burial but there were similarities between it and grave 5. It was circular, 18ft in diameter, and consisted of a sub-oval, built chamber 7ft 3ins long ENE-WSW by 4ft across and 3ft 3ins high, within a wall 5 to 7ft thick with an external built kerb 1 to 2ft high. As in grave 5, chamber wall was slightly corbelled, but otherwise there was no evidence of its being roofed. White quartzite pebbles, possibly fallen from the sloping sides of structure, lay near kerb on SE side. The chamber was filled with sand and contained four uncisted skeletons, the earliest being than of an elderly man lying extended on floor of the chamber. At a slightly higher level was extended skeleton of a young person about 15 years old. Very slightly above this, on a level with top of side walls, was a flexed skeleton of a middle-aged man, and at approx same level was extended skeleton of a female, a little over 20 years old with, around neck, a possibly 10th century bronze chain 15.75ins long, with iron rust adhering to one of its terminals. The site of this grave was marked by a notice prohibiting the removal of sand.
In the same locaility a similar structure, 16.5ft diameter with a well-defined kerb surrounding a cairn-like mass of stones, 3.5ft high, was discovered in 1902 (info from John Nicolson, Nybster), and a circular construction, 15f diameter, some years before 1925 (info from Simon Bremnar, Feswick).
Analysis of skeletal remains from cemetery indicated that burials were of both sexes and of all ages from babies to the elderly; and that people were dolichocephalic and lightly built, averaging in height only 5ft 5ins for males and 5ft for females. The conclusion was that they belonged to a native population of mixed origin, such as occupied north of Scotland in Viking period (Edwards 1926).
The Ogham-inscribed symbol stone, which formerly stood upright at ND 3483 5499 (info from Mrs Duff-Dunbar, Ackergill), was found, broken, on links towards S side of Keiss Bay in August 1896 by John Nicolson, Nybster, who brought it to Sir Francis Tress Barry at Keiss Castle, who in turn donated it to NMAS in 1897 (Acc No: IB 168). It is a slab of grey slate, 4ft long, 2ft broad and 3ins thick with, incised on one face, lower part of the fish symbol and rectangular symbol, divided and decorated with spirals. Ogham inscription has been read as 'NEHTETRI' and translated as 'Neht, son of Etrios'.
The other symbol stone fragment was found on surface near head of grave 1, about ND 3487 5497. It measures 12.5ins high, 16.5ins wide and 1 5/8ins thick and bears, incised on one face, a rectangular symbol and part of another. It, together with other finds from excavations and a polished stone disc, 2 5/8ins in diameter, found on surface of mound, was donated to NMAS by Mrs Duff-Dunbar.
Certain features of this site, eg. Accentuation of corners of rectangular kerbed structures and occurrence of symbol stones, have been compared with other extended inhumation cemeteries, either proved or supposed, eg. Garbeg (NH53SW 15), Whitebridge (NH41NE 2), Lundin Links (NO 40 SW ) etc, and with single graves, eg. Golspie (NC80SW 16), but closest parallel is possibly with cist cemetery at Stain (ND36SW 5). The occurrence of Class I symbol stones and comparison with Golspie and Lundin Links graves would suggest an earlier date for cemetery than that suggested by poss 10th century necklace.
A J H Edwards and T H Bryce 1926; A J H Edwards 1927; T H Bryce 1927; J Anderson 1897; J R Allen and J Anderson 1903; J Close-Brooks 1981; P Ashmore 1981.
The mound is about 120m long with a max width of 27m and 2m high. It has been considerably mutilated by World War 2 defence works, so that the many depressions in mound cannot be positively identified with 1925-6 excavation trenches.
Visited by OS (R D L) 21 April 1963.
Active erosion revealing two separate possible graves.
C E Batey 1981.
No change. Two poss graves noted by Batey were not identified.
Visited by OS (J M) 17 July 1982.
Photographs in Inverness Museum
Cist 4 (1902) skull only N/N 977.P79.24.
Unidentified and unlabelled picture of skull. May be that from Ackergill Links, cist 4 as it is filed with a labelled picture of the skull from that site. 977.P79.25
No. 2 This fragment of clay slate is much weathered, and measures 0.3m x 0.42m x 0.03m. A notched rectangular symbol is discernible decorated inside with a trumpet-like shape above a horizontal divide.
Donated to RMS(NMAS) by Mrs Duff-Dunbar in 1925. Acc No IB 206. Info from R Jones 1980.
Ackergill I : a Class I symbol stone bearing a salmon above a rectangle with a slanting Ogam inscription on the left.
Ackergill II : a Class I symbol stone bearing a rectangle with U-shaped re-entrant.
A Mack 1997 p.29
A radiocarbon date was obtained from a unstratified human femur thought to derive from this cemetery, probably from a recently disturbed burial. It suggests a 3C date, however this date is uncalibrated. It was published in 2004. <1>
This site was re-appraised along with the other cemetery sites in the area using Society of Antiquaries of Scotland manuscripts, and published sources, by Anna Ritchie. <2>
A radiocarbon data was obtained as part of the Comparitive Kingship Project. This was taken from a fragmentary skull held by the NMS (Acc. No. ET 32, obtained prior to 1892) from Ackergill. It produced a Pictish date of 426-578 AD, calibrated to 2 sigma. It was published in 2018. <3> <4> <5>
See link below to Scottish Radiocarbon Database.
The bronze chain from grave 6 is listed in the NMS catalogue under Acc. No. IL 361. The polished stone disc from the surface of the burial mound donated by Mrs Duff-Dunbar in 1925 is also listed under Acc. No. AV 11. <4>
A fragment of human skull from Ackergill was obtained by the NMS prior to 1892 (ET 32). Another fragment, ET 31, came in with this and this is likely to be from the same site although this is not certain. <5>
- --- Text/Publication/Article: Ashmore, P J. 1981. 'Low cairns, long cists and symbol stones', Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Volume 110, 1978-80. 346-55. 346-55.
- --- Text/Publication/Article: Anderson, J. 1897. 'Notices on some recently discovered inscribed and sculptured stones', Proc Soc Antiq Scot Vol. 31 1896-7, p.293-308. Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 293-308. 296-7; illust.
- --- Text/Publication/Article: Bryce, T H. 1927. 'On the bones from graves at Ackergill, Caithness, and an underground building at Rennibister, Orkney', Proc Soc Antiq Scot Vol. 49 1926-7, p.301-17. Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 301-17. 301-17.
- --- Text/Publication/Volume: Close-Brooks and Stevenson, J and R B K. 1982. Dark Age sculpture: a seletion from collections of the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland. 27.
- --- Text/Publication/Volume: Mack, A. 1997. Field guide to the Pictish symbol stones. 29.
- --- Text/Publication/Volume: Ritchie, J N G. 1985. Pictish symbol stones: a handlist 1985. 11.
- --- Text/Publication/Article: Close-Brooks, J. 1984. Pictish and other burials', Brit Archaeol Rep Vol. 125. SHG23462. 87-114. 97.
- --- Text/Publication/Article: PSAS. 1926. 'Donations to and purchases for the Museum and Library', Proc Soc Antiq Scot Vol. 60 1925-6, p.10-26, 95-104, 149-55, 215-18, 254-6, 300-4. Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 10-26, 95-104, 149-55, 21. 16-17.
- --- Text/Publication/Article: Edwards, A J H. 1926. 'Excavation of a number of graves in a mound at Ackergill, Caithness', Proc Soc Antiq Scot Vol. 60 1925-6, p.160-82. Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 160-82. 160-82; plan, illust.
- --- Text/Publication/Article: Edwards, A J H. 1927. 'Excavation of graves at Ackergill and of an earth-house at Freswick Links, Caithness, and a description of the discovery of a Viking grave at Reay, Caithness', Proc Soc Antiq Scot Vol. 61 1926-7, p.196-209. Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 196-209. 196-200; plans, illust.
- --- Text/Publication/Article: Close-Brooks, J. 1981. 'Excavations in the Dairy Park, Dunrobin, Sutherland, 1977', Proc Soc Antiq Scot Vol. 110 1978-80, p.328-45. Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 328-45. 328-45 28; illust.
- <1> Text/Publication/Article: Ashmore, P J. 2004. A List of Radiocarbon Dates Highland. Discovery and Excavation in Scotland 2004. 165-166. Paper (Copy). 165.
- <2> Text/Publication/Article: Ritchie, A.. 2011. Cemeteries of platform cairns and long cists around Sinclair's Bay, Caithness. Proc Soc Antiq Scot Vol. 141. 125-143. Digital.
- <3> Text/Publication/Article: Sheridan. A, et al. 2018. Scottish Archaeological Radiocarbon Dates Associated with National Museums Scotlans, 2017/18. Discovery and Excavation in Scotland. 217-221. pp. 219.
- <4> Dataset/Database File: National Museums Scotland. 2019. Highland Finds from the NMS Catalogue. National Museums Scotland. Digital. IL 361, ET 32, AV 11.
- <5> Dataset/Database File: 2020. Database of Human Remains in Museum Collections from Highland Area. NMS, IMAG & Marishal College. Digital.
|Grid reference||Centred ND 3486 5497 (100m by 100m) (Buffered by site type)|
- CHAIN (Early Medieval - 900 AD to 999 AD)
- HUMAN REMAINS (Pictish - 300 AD to 900 AD)
- DISC (Pictish - 300 AD? to 900 AD?)
Related Monuments/Buildings (4)
Related Investigations/Events (0)
External Links (2)
Comments and Feedback
Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.