MHG33474 - Burial Cairn - Loch Borralie


A cairn which was discovered to contain burials when a human skull was unearthed by rabbits. Two human internments were excavated here by GUARD in July 2000. Radiocarbon samples obtained from one of the individuals suggested a date of 40 cal BC - 210 AD.

Type and Period (1)

  • BURIAL CAIRN (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD) + Sci.Date

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD) undertook an archaeological evaluation of the find spot of a human skull from a cairn at Loch Borralie, Sutherland. Excavation recovered the remains of two burials beneath the cairn and established that the cairn was multi-phased. One individual was an adult male (skeleton 1), while the other was immature and of undeterminable sex (skeleton 2). Both individuals showed signs of ill health, and dogs and/or rats appear to have gnawed their bones. A ring-headed pin was recovered close to skeleton 1 during the excavation. A radiocarbon date was obtained from the left humerus of skeleton 1 of 40 cal BC - cal AD 210 at 2 sigma (OxA-10253).
Excavation revealed that the cairn, broadly subrectangular in form, had a maximum height of 1.2m and was composed of large, sub-angular and sub-rounded rocks (including quartz and quartzite) and occasional rounded cobbles within yellow - orange sand. One inhumation, skeleton 2, lay within an irregular grave, cut through the red brown sand that was sealed by the cairn and into the natural gravel sand below. The other inhumation, skeleton 1, was sealed by the red brown sand and had been placed on a low primary cairn of stone and earth, the full extent and depth of which remains unknown. <1> <2>

The radiocarbon date published in 2003 was withdrawn and due to the dates dertermined by the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit on Scottish material between 2000-2002 being unreliable due to a problem in the ultrafiltration system used to pretreat the bone during this time. The original sample was redated to 40 cal BC - cal AD 130 at 2 sigma. <3>

Sources/Archives (3)



Grid reference Centred NC 3791 6761 (16m by 16m) (Buffered by site type)
Map sheet NC36NE
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish DURNESS

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Related Investigations/Events (1)

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