MHG63093 - Through and Through Cave (with the 'Grafitti Chamber') - Rosemarkie


An archaeological survey and test pitting was undertaken between 2011 and 2015 by the Rosemarkie Caves Project.

Type and Period (2)

  • OCCUPATION SITE (Early Medieval to Medieval - 561 AD? to 1559 AD?)
  • CAVE (Occupied, Early Medieval to 19th Century - 561 AD? to 1900 AD?)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

The 2011-15 Rosemarkie Caves Project excavation report contains descriptive details of 14 caves which could potentially have been used as rock shelters in historic or pre-historic times.

From the results of our 2011-2015 programme of survey and test pitting, substantial evidence for lengthy use of the Rosemarkie Caves over the past 2000 years was gathered. A number of the caves, in particular the Learnie group, had been visited or occupied sometime during the 7th-9th centuries AD.

Through & Through Cave is the longest of the surveyed caves, running over 40m long N-S, and has 2 entrances at either end. At the north end, the passage opens into a wider chamber, given the name ‘Grafitti Chamber’ due to the number of signatures and dates on the walls, most about 100 years old. The floor at the southern end is sand-covered while the Graffiti Chamber floor is rock-covered. Three test pits were excavated in the cave (Figure 18).

Test Pit 1
Test Pit 1 was located in the Graffiti Chamber against the back west wall of the cave (Plate 11). It measured 1 x 2 metres, displayed well-stratified archaeological layers to a depth of 70cm at the bedrock (Figure 19). Below the upper layers of modern debris and talus material, a thick stone-filled soil layer [105] and a talus layer [106] sealed earlier horizons. The trench had a large boulder, against the east side of which several lenses of ash and charcoal had built up, some of which contained animal bone and shell. A fragment of sheep bone from context [109] and a sample of birch charcoal from context [112] were selected for radiocarbon dating.

Test Pit 2
Trench 2 was just outside the Graffiti Chamber, against the NE facing cliff wall (Plate 12). The trench contained scree and talus material and was abandoned at a depth of 70cm due to collapsing sides.

Test Pit 3
Test Pit 3 was laid across a clear spot at the centre of the cave, aimed to assess the nature of the cave floor at this point. Very minimal archaeological material was identified, other than a dish-shaped lens of compact soil [304] within a sand layer (Figure 19). The trench was abandoned at a depth of 50cm within a thick layer of coarse beach sand.

Birch charcoal (single entity from test pit 1) was dated to 1045‐1165 AD Calibrated 1‐sigma (68.2%) and 1035‐1205 AD Calibrated 2‐sigma (95.4%).
Mammal mandible ramus: sheep from Test pit 1 was dated to 1409‐1435 AD Calibrated 1‐sigma (68.2%) and 1327‐1445 AD Calibrated 2‐sigma (95.4%).

A list of caves, with grid references, is available on the Rosemarkie Caves Project website. <2>

Ordnance Survey Mastermap <3>

Sources/Archives (7)



Grid reference Centred NH 7495 5994 (58m by 58m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH75NW
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (2)

External Links (3)

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