MHG54306 - Stone Cists - Ness Gap, Fortrose


A stone cist containing an early Bronze Age food vessel discovered during an archaeological evaluation. A second stone cist, immediately to the east was discovered during a later watching brief.

Type and Period (2)

  • PIT (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)
  • SHORT CIST (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A pentagonal stone lined pit was discovered during archaeological trial trenching in October 2010. Upon investigation the feature was found to contain an early Bronze Age food vessel in an inverted position. The pit is therefore interpreted as an early Bronze Age short cist.
Five large water-worn stones formed the main cist structure with smaller cobbles of varying sizes being placed on and around the top giving it a more circular appearance in plan. There was no capstone. The cist measured 0.5m by 0.7m, orientated roughly east-west. The base of the pit was made up of small water-worn cobbles placed in a non-uniform arrangement. <1>

The fill was 100% sampled and produced a very small quantity of burnt bone from the outer fill [031] and a small quantity of charcoal fragments from the main fill [032] is suggestive of in-situ burning. The bone fragments were both very small, less than 0.2m in length, and may have been transported from elsewhere on the site by mechanisms such as windblow or surface run-off. <2>

The vessel is a small tripartite food vessel bowl of Yorkshire type, decorated all over with twisted cord in various patterns including herringbone on the upper half and semi-circles on the lower half. It dates to the early Bronze Age, between c.2150-1750 BC.
Food vessels have been associated with both inhumations and cremations. The size of the cist at Fortrose is ambiguous in respect of which method may have been used, although the small size of the cist and the food vessel may be suggestive of a child burial. <3>

This cist was further investigated during a watching brief for topsoil stripping by Headland Archaeology in October 2014. The lining stones, left intact after the contents had been excavated in the previous work, were recorded and removed. The full extenet of the cut was exposed, which was irregular in plan and measured 1.1m by 1.0m and 0.45m deep. The lining stones were found to have rested directly against the cut, packed in places with redeposited natural sand and stones.
A second short cist was also revealed immediately east of the excavated cist. It was slightly larger with a sub-oval cut measuring 1.6m by 1.35m and 0.4–0.8m deep. This was lined with water-worn stones of up to 0.4m in diameter, which were supported with smaller packing stones and sand. The internal space measured 0.5x0.4m.There was no surviving cap stone and the cist has been infilled with several layers of redeposited natural material with small fragments of burnt bpne and prehistoric pottery, including a decorated rim sherd. Fragments of glas and hammerscale were also present in the upper fill indicating that the cist has been disturbed in more recent history. <4>

A final report was published in 2020. This included post-excavation and radiocarbon dating results. The report is available online. <5>

Sources/Archives (5)



Grid reference Centred NH 7319 5649 (2m by 1m)
Map sheet NH75NW
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY

Finds (3)

  • VESSEL (Early Bronze Age - 2150 BC to 1750 BC)
  • PLANT MACRO REMAINS (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)

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