MHG2268 - Possible Chambered Cairn - The Cairns Park


No summary available.

Type and Period (2)

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

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Site ND27SW 4 and refered to as 'A' in the HES Canmore records.

ND 2492 7371: Tumuli.
Ordnance Survey: 1873: 6" map.

One of three mounds (others being described on ND27SE 8 and ND27SW 27) shaped like inverted boats and lying in a field called 'the Cairns Park'. The mounds are about 4 to 5ft in height with large stones on edge and large slabs lying flat and exposed where soil has been removed. Mr Campbell sent a description of them to the Soc Antiq Scot, and Mr Anderson (presumably Joseph), one of members, at a meeting of Society pronounced it to be a Norse boat-burial, probably dating from Earl Thorfinn's sea-battle off the coast of Caithness in 1046. (R Campbell, Schoolmaster, Dunnet). <1>

An oval grassy mound lying NE-SW and measuring 45ft by 30ft by 5ft high, which was partially opened by John Nicolson, Nybster, who found 'a passage 4ft deep by 2ft wide, extending along it from SW end, faced with slabs set on end and covered by flat stones for lintels'. In passage were a stone pounder, two split bones and shells of edible molluscs. <2>

The cairn is as described by the RCAHMS. Four thin slabs are scattered over the mound, but otherwise it is featureless, with no evidence of the passage surviving.
Resurveyed at 1/2500. Visited by OS 1 March 1965.

A grass-covered cairn, about 15m by 10m by 1.6m high, the core of which is exposed in a ploughed field, and stones are scattered throughout the area. <3>

A: ND 2494 7371. Cairn.
Ordnance Survey: 1976: 1/10,000 Map.

Cairn. Mound dimensions approx. 15 x 10m., height 1.6m. This was partially excavated by Nicholson, revealing a passage roofed with flat lintel stones (no. 75) (MHG13721). Approx. 10m. SW of the mound are traces of a reduced mound with slabs projecting (no. 73). The core of no. 75 is exposed in a ploughed field and stones are scattered throughout the area. Both sites are mainly grass covered. <4>

A cairn turf-covered, on a light NE-facing field slope within an area of rig-and-furrow. It measures 18m WSW-ENE by 13m tranversely and 1.5m high. Random slabs lie on the surface and packed, fragmented slabs are visible in the disturbed centre. The SE side may have been truncated by rig and furrow cultivation.
Visited by OS 24 April 1982.

In September 1967, Mr R S Murray wrote to T C Lethbridge at University Museum, Cambridge, relating that he had dug into an unexamined cairn in Caithness to a depth of 3ft. At this depth he came across two 'shelves' and digging deeper, he encountered a cavity in which were bones, shells, and some pieces of metal, all of which he sent to Cambridge. The matter was referred to R B K Stevenson at the NMAS, Edinburgh, who asked Murray for the identification of the cairn. This transpired to be at Rattar, and was taken to be the chambered cairn there (ND27SW 3, CAT 45), and the bones were said to be those of a dog.
It appears that Murray must have dug at the cairn again in 1968, as the next correspondence in April 1969 states that Dr Lunt had examined the skulls from Rattar implying a neolithic date, as it was still presumed that they were from the chambered cairn. A Fenton, from the NMAS, visited and photographed the mound in October 1969. In October 1988, while investigating the chambered cairn ND27SW 3, J L Davidson and A S Henshall had it confirmed by the farmer at Rattar that the mound Murray had dug into was that opened by John Nicolson in 1907, and this was confirmed by the photographs taken by Dr Fenton and Murray himself (NMRS:CA/519-23). In one of these photographs can be seen two spaced upright slabs indicative of an O-C chamber. The mound itself is oblong on plan measuring about 15m NE-SW by 11m, and is 1.6m high. Murray's excavation has been filled in, but thrown-out slabs lie adjacent to it. There are no identifications of Nicolson's excavation other than the three slabs set some 4m to the SW of the mound.
Visited by RCAHMS (J L D) 20 October 1988; Information contained in letter from R S Murray, 34 Beechwood Road, Blackburn, W Lothian, to T C Lethbridge, Cambridge University, 7 September 1967; from R B K Stevenson, National Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh, to R S Murray, 25 September 1967 and 29 November 1967; from A S Henshall, NMAS, to R S Murray, 21 April 1969 and 20 October 1969.

Radiocarbon dates for human skulls found in 1968 were obtained and published as part of the National Museums Scotland's Radiocarbon Dating Programme in 2006. These indicated Neolithic dates of 3620-3370 BC and 3270-2930 BC, calibrated to 1 sigma. <5>

See link below to Scottish Radiocarbon Database for radiocarbon dates.

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

Sources/Archives (7)



Grid reference Centred ND 2492 7371 (24m by 17m) Indicative centroid
Map sheet ND27SW
Civil Parish DUNNET
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (4)

  • MOLLUSCA REMAINS (Neolithic - 4000 BC? to 2401 BC?)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Neolithic - 4000 BC? to 2401 BC?)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2401 BC)
  • POUNDER (Neolithic - 4000 BC? to 2401 BC?)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (2)

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