MHG45834 - Cists - Kerb Cairn, Stoneyfield


No summary available.

Type and Period (1)

  • CIST (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC) + Sci.Date

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

See NH64NE0721 for relocated site. JW 2/12/99

Now at NH 68787 45086. Original location under modern A9 at NH 6878 4549 - "Cairn Circle" shown on OS 1:10,000, map, (1971)

JW 16/6/02

RCAHMS notes:

NH64NE 6 6878 4549.

(NH 6878 4549) Cairn Circle (NR)
OS 1:10,000, map, (1971)

At Stoneyfield are the remains of a Clava-type cairn. All that remains is the major part of an impressive cairn kerb, 58' indiameter. The cairn itself and the internal structure have been removed, though when seen by Anderson (J Anderson 1831) in about 1824 the cairn seems to have been fairly complete. The stones forming the kerb are massive boulders, the largest being on the SW arc - the tallest, a leaning stone at the S end of this arc, 4'9" high - and other stones are 4'6" to 4'3" high. The stones in the NE arc are 1'9" to 2'9" high. Many stones have fallen inwards or outwards but have not been disturbed, and several have been reduced by blasting. There is no sign, nor it there any record, of monoliths which may once have surrounded the cairn.
In 1760 two stone circles were recorded at Stoneyfield. (a, b) (This feature was first published on OS 6"map as "Stone Circle").
A S Henshall 1963; R Pococke 1887; NSA (A Rose, A Clark and R Macpherson) 1845, G Anderson 1831; J Fraser 1884; Visited by OS (W D J) 30 March 1960.

The excavation of this cairn in 1972-3 revealed that beneath it there had been a rectangular timber building, 9.5m long with a central stone hearth, probably associated with a series of pits containing Grooved Ware. The cairn itself consisted of a heavy stone kerb with traces of an external stone platform on the W; in the central area there was a series of pits and cists, some of them contemporary with the cairn, some later. Several of the pits contained cremations, and in one of the cists there was a Food Vessel. A Cordoned Urn with a cremation had also been deposited in the cairn. Other articles found included a cup-marked stone, a 2nd century Roman brooch, and a sherd of coarse ware.
A S Henshall 1963; D D A Simpson 1973, 1974; RCAHMS 1979.

The full excavation report of the 1972-3 rescue excavation was published in 1996. It suggested three phases of construction for this site, of which a series of four cists belonged to the third phase. These cists were found to have been distributed in an arc on the northern area of the site, both within and outside of the circle. The setting of some so close to, or touching, the kerb, indicated that they post dated it. All of the cists were set in pits and formed of small slabs of local sandstone and conglomerate. None had capsones or built floors. Three of the cists were set in the cairn material and projected above the buried surface, either a product of later insertion, or later stone robbing. One of the cists was covered by its own individual cairn, Minute fragments of calcined bone, probably adult, were found in one cist, and a single fragment in another, but this material could be part of the general scatter of cremated bone from the buried soil and cannot be considered as deliberate internments. Only one cist was large enough to contain a crouched adult. A food vessel stood on the floor of another, and a badly decayed extended inhumation, possibly male, lay immediately east of another on the buried soil. The cist with the food vessel was radiocarbon dated to 2290-1979 CAL BC. The empty cist was also radiocarbon dated, however it returned a very early date probaly produced from old wood or sample contamination.
There was also a pit containing an cordoned urn with calcined remains of a child, and two other pits containing unurned human cremations, one a young adult and the other at least two adults and grooved ware, an arrow head and flints. These pits appeared to be overlain by individual cairns, and the latter containing the two adults was beneath the central cairn. Although not cisted, these pits are part of the same burial tradition as the cists and thus were of the same phase. <1>

The site and the excavated sequence is further discussed by Richard Bradley in his 2000 publication. First constructed were a number of pits, and the rectangular building, likely Neolithic. Later, a central cairn was constructed which overlay the rectangular building and also the pit containing the unurned cremation of the two adults. Smaller cairns were also raised over over five burials (the cists and other pits containing the urned and unurned cremations), in Bronze Age burial tradition. This is supported by the 2290-1979 CAL BC radiocarbon date obtained from the cisted food vessel burial under a small cairn within the kerbed area. The constuction of the kerb either before or after the central cairn is uncertain, but Bradly points out the significance of the relationship between the rectangular structure and the later cairn and kerb, and how the house of the living was momumentalised and transformed to a domain on the dead, remaining in use as a Bronze Age cemetery for a considerable period of time. <3>

The excavation assemblage from the site is in Inverness Museum and is listed under Acc. No. 1979.045. There are also finds listed under Acc. Nos. 1982.081-083, 1984.097, 1985.067 and 2002.655. <4>

See link below to published PSAS article for full discussion of the 1972-3 excavation of the site and the radiocarbon dates.

Sources/Archives (11)



Grid reference Centred NH 6878 4549 (4m by 4m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH64NE
Geographical Area INVERNESS

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