MHG45835 - Cremations - Kerb Cairn, Stoneyfield


Three pits beneath individual cairns, containing cremation, one urned and two unurned. The urned cremation has been radiocarbon dated to the Bronze Age.

Type and Period (2)

  • CREMATION (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC) + Sci.Date
  • CREMATION (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2401 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

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 suggest three phases of construction for this site, of which three pits containing urned and urned cremations were of the third phase. The pit containing the urned cremation was a cordoned urn with calcined remains of a child, located to south of the interior of the kerbed area (pit 30). One of the two pits containing the unurned human cremations contained a young adult, and was located to the east of the interior of the kerbed area (pit 25)and the second contained at least two adults, grooved ware, an arrow head, and flints, and was located beneath the central cairn (pit 50). <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 and associated grave goods. Smaller cairns were also raised over five other 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 under the small cairn. 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. <2>

A radiocarbon date from the cremated bone in the cordoned urn in pit 30 was obtained and published in 2003 as part of the National Museums of Scotland Dating Cremated Bones Project. This indicated a Early Bronze Age date of 1690- 1530 BC calibrated to 1 sigma. This, along with the 2290-1979 BC date from the cist burial supports the long use of this site as a Bronze Age cemetary. <3>

Two radiocarbon dates from cremated bone in pits 20 and 50 was obtained and published in 2018 as part of 'Tracing the lines: uncovering Grooved Ware Trajectories in Neolithic Scotland' project. This produced dates of 3090-2909 BC and 1053-895 BC respectively, calibrated to 2 sigma. The second date indicated that the cremation was an intrusive Late Bronze Age deposit into a pit containing Neolithic material (Groove Ware and tranchet derivative arrowhead). <4>

See link below to published PSAS article for full discussion of the 1972-3 excavation of the site and the radiocarbon dates. <1>

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. <5>

Sources/Archives (12)



Grid reference Centred NH 6877 4548 (6m by 6m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH64NE
Geographical Area INVERNESS

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Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

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