MHG39354 - Burial Ground - John O'Groats


Six intact skeletons plus large amounts of grouped disarticulated bone were discovered which disturbed an earlier possible prehistoric-early medieval settlement.

Type and Period (1)

  • BURIAL GROUND (Norse to 17th Century - 800 AD to 1700 AD)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Grid Reference corrected to ND 37917 73250

Construction work at the Highland and Island Development Board industrial estate led to discovery of a large quantity of human bone in 1989. This led to a rescue excavation of an area 6 x 5m by Archaeology Projects Glasgow under the sponsorship of Historic Buildings and Monuments. Two phases of activity were found, indicated by the remains of a prehistoric settlement (see MHG39354) which was later substantially disturbed by two separate episodes of burial. This burial ground was represented by six intact skeletons, if poorly preserved, and a mass of scattered, disarticulated human bone. The latter comprised 2242 fragments, which was estimated to represent as many as 71 adults and 13 children. Interestingly in one area, this disarticulated material appeared to have been collected and stacked together. This mass of jumbled bone is likely to have been the product of continuous burial over a period of time probably extending to centuries. A radiocarbon date obtained from a sample of this disarticulated bone indicated a 13th century date. The six other inhumations revealed two distinct episodes of burial. The first was represented by four internments, which were very close to the surface and thus had suffered considerable damage. Despite this it was clear that these were extended burials orientated with their heads to the west and feet to the east. Two of these were radiocarbon dated and collectively returned a date covering the 10th to 13th centuries. The second episode of burial was represented by two other extended burials, which were discoved to be buried deeper that the previous inhumations and were cut into the paved surface of the earlier prehistoric settlement (MHG598). This consequently caused significant disturbance to this prehistoric material. The two burials were orientated with their heads to the north east, opposite to the the other inhumations, and one lay directly on top of the other, so that the second substantially disturbed the first. This second burial was radiocarbon dated to the 16th-17th century. There were no grave good associated with any of the burials. Approximately a third of the prehistoric pottery sherds recovered from the site and a few flints came from contexts relating to the cemetery, but given that these were comparable with the material from the prehistoric contexts and the disruptive nature of later burials it should be assumed that this pottery and flint all derives from the earlier settlement use of the site. There were also three Norse pottery sherds recovered from contexts that related to the burial ground with none from the prehistoric contexts. It may be that these sherds are contemporary with the burials. <1>

Following the archaeological discoveries of the 1989 rescue excavations, various surveys and investigations in association with further development work in the surrounding area have been undertaken. None of this work discovered further archaeological remains. For more details of these investigations, see attached reports. <2> <3> <4> <5> <6> <7> <8> <9>

The human remains from the site are within the NMS. <10>

Sources/Archives (14)



Grid reference Centred ND 3791 7325 (100m by 100m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND37SE
Civil Parish CANISBAY
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (1)

  • HUMAN REMAINS (Norse to 17th Century - 800 AD to 1700 AD) + Sci.Date

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (1)

External Links (3)

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