MHG54308 - Urned and unurned cremation burials - Ness Gap, Fortrose


A badly truncated cremation urn burial discovered during an archaeological evaluation. A subsequent watching brief revealed several more urned and unurned cremation burials close by.

Type and Period (2)

  • CREMATION BURIAL (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)
  • BURIAL GROUND (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

During archaeological investigations in October 2010 by Headland Archaeology at the Ness Gap site in Fortrose a patch containing small sherds of pottery and fragments of burnt bone was discovered. Upon further investigation this proved to be a badly truncated cremation urn burial. The urn itself had a diameter of 0.2m and due to disturbance from past ploughing activity, the inverted base and most of the body of the urn had been destroyed, but a possible third remained in situ. It contained cremation material which was left contained within the urn when excavated. The urn was block lifted and is being stored under stable environmental conditions pending full post-excavation analysis. After the urn was lifted, a collection of loose, varied size stones were uncovered on which the urn appeared to have deliberately been placed. An indistinct cut for the cremation urn was visible but this only appeared as a slight difference in the colour of the sand deposit around the cremation urn edges. Since the boundary between the fill and the subsoil was very indistinct, a cut for the cremation to be placed in could not be convincingly recorded. This is probably due to the surrounding sand fill representing subsoil dug out and almost immediately redeposited when the urn was buried. Samples of contexts associated with this urned cremation produced, as might be expected, abundant fragments of burnt bone and some charcoal as well as fragments of prehistoric pottery. <1>

Only the upper third of the vessel is present, the rest having been truncated at some point in antiquity, most likely by ploughing. It appears to have a single cordon and has been provisionally identified as a collared urn dating to the early Bronze Age, between c.1900-1500 BC. A flint flake discovered 0.5m from the cordoned urn may have been ploughed out from the cremation. <2>

A subsequent watching brief for topsoil stripping in October 2014 by Headland Archaeology revealed a cluster of a further six cremations very close to the urned cremation discovered in 2010. These consisted of four urned cremations and two unurned cremations. Of the urned cremations, two were recovered intact from within the same pit. Excavation indicated that the pit had been cut very tightly for the urns, measuring 0.54m by 0.29m and 0.35m deep. The urns were block lifted to be excavated in Edinbugh under laboratory conditions which subsequently revealed that one was decorated with four external cordons evenly spaced down the body and contained an ususual tablet shaped piece of fired clay, incised with three evenly spaced lines, two segmented faience beads and a fragmentary piece of copper. The other urn was decorated with a single cordon and contained a metal flattened tube and fragment. The other two urned cremations had been crushed, and were found in very shallow hollows which were likely the truncated bases of larger pits. One measured 0.6m by 0.5m and 0.05m deep and contained the lower third portion of an urn decorated with a single cordon and a fragmented piece of copper alloy with two rivet holes. A further small cluster of pottery fragments and burnt bone was found in a shallow natural depression 0.75m E from this and was interpreted as parts of the same urn disturbed by ploughing. The other crushed urn was found in a hollow measuring 0.7m by 0.6m and 0.05m, and contained a few sherds of an urn with an internal bevelled rim. The unurned cremations were found in two shallow cuts which had been substantially truncated and further disturbed by burrowing. <3>

A final report was published in 2020. This included post-excavation and radiocarbon dating results. The report is available online (see External links). <4>

Sources/Archives (4)



Grid reference Centred NH 7336 5647 (22m by 27m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH75NW
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY

Finds (7)

  • CREMATION (Early Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 1501 BC)
  • BURIAL URN (Early Bronze Age - 1900 BC? to 1501 BC?)
  • FLAKE (Bronze Age - 2400 BC? to 551 BC?)
  • RAZOR (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)
  • AWL (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)
  • BEAD (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)
  • BEAKER (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (2)

External Links (2)

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