MHG36853 - Burial Cairn - Arisaig


A kerb cairn and remains of a robbed out cist were identified during a programme of works associated with the A830 road upgrade.

Type and Period (1)

  • BURIAL CAIRN (Bronze Age - 2400 BC? to 551 BC) + Sci.Date

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Created automatically by NMRS Register Utility
User: Admin, Date: Wed 13 Oct 2004
NM68NE 35 6634 8651

NM 6790 9194 (Kinsadel) - NM 6639 8656 (Arisaig) Field survey, test pitting and monitoring of trial pitting was carried out in advance of a proposed road alignment of the A830 between Kinsadel and Arisaig. Forty-four sites were identified by desk-based assessment and field survey. Two possible prehistoric sites were discovered, including a possible burial cairn (NM 6634 8651) which comprised a mound measuring 12m in diameter and c 2-3m high, on the summit of a natural knoll. Numerous post-medieval sites were recorded, ranging from single enclosures, shielings, field banks/dykes, rig and furrow cultivation, terrace cultivation and clearance cairns, to an extensive post-medieval relict township at Achriag (NM 6580 8787). The township incorporated the remains of several rectangular buildings, field systems, clearance cairns, trackways, enclosures and paths.
A report will be deposited with the NMRS.
Sponsor: Historic Scotland on behalf of the SE Development Department Transport Planning.
A Rees 2000

NM 6639 8656 (Arisaig) to NM 6790 9194 (Kinsadel) Following field survey and test pitting (DES 2000, 47), evaluation work was undertaken on seven sites.
NM 6635 8651 Site 41 (cairn). Evaluation confirmed that this is a prehistoric funerary cairn (NMRS NM 68 NE 35). It was fully excavated and found to be c 12m in diameter with a boulder kerb measuring 6m in diameter. The remains of a robbed-out cist were identified off-centre and a concentration of burnt bone from a single individual, thought to be a separate burial, was identified 3m from the cist. Fifteen small sherds of prehistoric pottery were retrieved from the cairn. No other features were identified around the cairn.
Sponsor: Historic Scotland
S Halliday 2001

The cairn was located during walkover survey along the road corridor carried out early in 2000 by the CFAt was located 20m east of the old A830 as ientered Arisaig from the east (Illus 13). The feature appeared as a grassy mound 12m in diameter and 1m high. The nature of the monument was clarified at the time through a small hand-excavated trench that confirmed that the mound comprised small stones. The cairn was believed to be a funerary monument as the location made it less likely to be made from field clearance. This interpretation was confirmed during an evaluation carried out by Headland Archaeology at the end of 2000, which identified the remains of a robbed out cist in the centre of the structure and a boulder kerb on the north side of the cairn. As a result of the evaluation results, a programme of full excavation was carried out during July and August 2001.

A trench measuring 30m by 30m was excavated, centred on the cairn. The first stage of construction comprised a 6m diameter kerb cairn. The remains of the robbed out cist, identified during the evaluation, were fully exposed
and found to measure approximately 1m in length and 0.45m in width, although this may not represent the original size of the feature given that only two sides survived. No human remains or artefacts were retrieved from within it. The cist was supported by the basal layer of stones and was thought to be contemporary with the erection of the kerb. A small deposit of cremated human bone was identified 3m to the north of the cist. It was recovered in an area measuring some 0.5m by 0.5m, within the basal layer of cairn stones. The bones had not been interred in any cist-like structure but it is possible that they were deposited in an organic container that has totally decayed. The bone appears to have been deposited at the time of the cairn’s construction although it is impossible to confirm that stones were not moved to allow its insertion at a later date. Analysis of the remains suggested that they were from one adult individual. A sample of the bones was dated by radiocarbon (SUERC-2451/GU-11904) and returned an Early Bronze Age date between 2140 and 1910 BC.
Above the basal layer of cairn stones was a layer of large voided stones all located on the interior of the kerb. Around the exterior of the kerb, was a layer of stones which formed a concentric band around the kerb, roughly 2.5m in width. This layer abutted the boulder kerb and had clearly been deposited after its construction.
The whole cairn was overlain by a layer of smaller stones, forming a significant mound measuring some 12m in diameter and at least 1m in height. Fifteen small sherds and crumbs of prehistoric pottery were recovered from one location in the south-east quadrant. In the north-west quadrant of the cairn, a spread of charcoal was identified. It measured some 1.0m by 0.6m and was only 7mm deep. Its origin was unclear and no small finds were retrieved from the feature. A sample of the charcoal was dated by radiocarbon (SUERC-2452/GU-11905) to the period between 50 BC and AD 140.
The centre of the cairn was dug into at some time after it had reached its final form. This left a depression measuring 4m in diameter and 0.3m deep at the present-day ground surface. Whenever this robbing occurred, the result was partial destruction of the cist and complete removal of its contents. <1> <2>

Radiocarbon dates were obtained and published in 2005 from samples taken during the excavation. These suggest that the cairn was likely to have been contructed in the Early Bronze Age (but also possibly earlier) and was complete, including the deposition of field stones, by the Iron Age. See associated SAIR report. <1>

The excavation assemblage from the Arisaig to Kinsadel work was submitted to Treasure Trove (TT 113/05) and allocated to Inverness Museum. <3> <4>

Sources/Archives (4)



Grid reference Centred NM 6634 8651 (15m by 13m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NM68NE
Geographical Area LOCHABER

Finds (2)

  • CREMATION (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)
  • SHERD (Bronze Age - 2400 BC? to 551 BC?)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (2)

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.