MHG926 - Chambered Long Cairn, Tulach an T-Sionnaich


No summary available.

Type and Period (3)

  • CHAMBERED LONG CAIRN (Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 551 BC) + Sci.Date
  • BURIAL (Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 551 BC?) + Sci.Date
  • CREMATION (Early Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 1501 BC) + Sci.Date

Protected Status

Full Description

Tulach an t'Sionnaich (NAT), Chambered Cairn (NR)
OS 1:10,000 map, (1975)

Tulach an t'Sionnaich, the Mound of the Fox, is a multi-period chambered cairn, which was excavated by Corcoran in September 1961 and April 1963, in advance of raising of level of Loch Calder, which would threaten site. Before excavation, its general appearance was that of a long cairn, unhorned and possibly disturbed, but retaining most of its structural features. It was 200ft long, lying NNW-SSE and averaging 40 ft in breadth with higher and broader end, 6ft in max height, towards S. A prominent feature was a 'trench' crossing cairn about 50ft from S end.
The excavation showed that monument had originated as a minimal, round cairn, about 35ft in diameter, covering a passage grave consisting of a square chamber whose 7ft long passage had opened to S, but was carefully blocked. The outer ends of passage were bonded into revetment wall which had bounded the cairn. Between E side of chamber and revetment, an inner wall, roughly built but quite stable, was traceable for 18ft from where it was bonded into E side of passage to where it was lost in disturbance.
After an independent, though possibly short existence, this cairn, which comparison with Vementry (HU26SE 1) suggests may have stood on a heel-shaped platform, was enclosed within a heel-shaped cairn, first to be identified on mainland of Scotland, whose 'narrow plan would place it early in the typological sequence of this class of monument. The facade, built across entrance to passage, was unbroken. Disturbance, both prehistoric and recent, prevented recovery of complete plan but it appeared to have measured c53ft from facade to rear and 51ft across chord of the facade. N limit was in area of 'trench' where disturbed remains of drystone walling about 18ins high were identified.
After time lapse sufficient to allow slip from heel-shaped cairn to accrue to depth of c1ft in forecourt, whole structure was encapsulated in long cairn whose straight S end ran across facade of heel-shaped cairn, and which was completely surrounded by a low revetment wall. The long cairn was straight-sided, 127ft long, and tapered slightly from width of 34ft across its pseudo-facade to 26ft at slightly convex N end. It was aligned c15 E of axis of heel-shaped cairn, presumably to use a natural ridge to enhance its height which, except at S end was nowhere more than 3ft. Selective cuts in body of cairn revealed cist-like arrangements of stones, which, however proved to be part of cairn structure.
Few finds were made but pottery suggested to Corcoran that the heel-shaped cairn was in use during floruit of undecorated Neolithic pottery; that it went out of use about period of local arrival of Beakers; and that long cairn was complete before deposition of a cinerary urn outside revetment wall. Finds from excavation are in NMAS, donated by DoE.
J X W P Corcoran 1967; A S Henshall 1972; NMAS 1977.

Cairn as described. Resurveyed at 1:2500.
Visited by OS (R D) 22 October 1964.

Tulach an t-Sionnaich, a chambered cairn generally as described by Corcoran. S and SW sides, including chamber have been eroded by waters of Loch Calder but main body of cairn remains turf-covered.
Revised at 1:2500. Visited by OS (N K B) 17 September 1981.

See link below for radioncarbon dates. They were first published (uncalibrated) by Sharples in 1986, and indicated Neolithic - Early Bronze Age dates. The excavations where the samples were obtained were undertaken in 1961, however, as radiocarbon dating was expensive and time consuming at that time, it was not until 1980 that radiocarbon dating samples from this site and Tulloch of Assery A and B were again considered. The close proximity of these three sites and also the great difference in both architecture and burial deposits meant that some chronological guidelines for these three sites could result in a picture of the changing use of chambered tombs in the British Isles. <1>

A radiocarbon date from the cremated human remains from the cinerary urn were obtained and published in 2005 as part of the National Museums of Scotland Radioncarbon Dating Programmes. This indicated an Early Bronze Age date of 2140-2030 BC calibrated to 1 sigma. <2>

A radiocarbon date was also obtained from an adult male sample in 2016 as part of the GENSCOT Ancient DNA project, which indicated a Neolithic date of 3693-3542 BC calibrated to 1 sigma. <3> The radiocarbon date and DNA sample information were also included in the 'A summary round-up list of Scottish archaeological human remains that have been sampled/analysed for DNA as of January 2019', available online through DES. This also includes references to where the DNA results have been published. <4>

Listed in the NMS catalogue are 2 sherds of Beaker pottery (Acc. No. EO 1108), 12 flakes, blades and chips of flint (EO 1110) and a portion of hazelnut (EO 1114). <5>

Human remains from the site are within NMS collections. <6>

Sources/Archives (15)



Grid reference Centred ND 0704 6192 (100m by 100m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND06SE
Civil Parish HALKIRK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (8)

  • BEAKER (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)
  • URN (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)
  • FLAKE (Neolithic - 4000 BC? to 2401 BC?)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC? to 551 BC?)
  • BLADE (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2401 BC)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2401 BC)
  • CREMATION (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)
  • SHERD (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2401 BC)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (1)

External Links (4)

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