MHG969 - Possible Site of Cairn of Howe


Possible site of burial cairn. This feature may, however, also be a natural mound. A polished stone axehead and Early Bronze Age bronze flat axehead were reputedly found at or near the cairn.

Type and Period (1)

  • CAIRN (Neolithic to Late Bronze Age - 4000 BC to 551 BC)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

A polished stone axe and a flat bronze axe were found in the Cairn of Howe, parish of Thurso, about 1885, by Mr James Swanson. "There is no evidence that they were found together or in connection with the original burial or burials in the cairn. The bronze axe is stated to have been picked out of the wall of the cairn."
The stone axe measures 3.25ns by 1.75ins across cutting face, the edges rounded and slightly planed flat, butt end blunt and flattened. The bronze axe is 3.34ins by 2.25ins across cutting face, tapering to 1ins at butt. Near centre of one face is a semi-globular depression about 3/16ins diameter and deep. On same side are other depressions that seem to be casting flaws. About 1/4ins below butt on each side are 1/8ins deep cuts made by a saw or very thin file, which do not appear to be contemporary with original use of axe.
Both axes were exhibited to Soc of Antiqs, Edinburgh in 1910 by John Anderson of Millbank Terrace, Thurso.
Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1911.

At ND 0923 6311 there is a grass-covered circular mound 28m in diameter and 1.7m high which present owner of Howe (Mr G B Swanston, Thurso) believes to be Cairn of Howe.
Surveyed at 1:2500. Visited by OS (R D) 24 March 1965.

Both axes are in Thurso Museum, with a note that they were found 'in an old barn wall at Lower Howe' near Thurso. A flat axe of unidentifiable type from Lower Howe.
J M Coles 1971.

Cairn of Howe (NR) OS 1:10,000 map, (1975)

(Flat axe of Migdale type). Single find. Flat axe, length 97mm, butt 20mm, cutting edge 55mm. Thurso.
P K Schmidt and C B Burgess 1981.

The provenance of axes (still in Thurso Museum) is disputed. Mr Swanston was contacted once more, and he was uncertain as the whereabouts of Cairn of Howe. The mound surveyed by previous OS field investigator appears to be entirely natural.
Visited by OS (N K B) 1 October 1981.

The two axes are now within the collection of Caithness Horizons. The Neolithic stone axehead is listed under Acc. No. ARC9 and the Bronze Age axehead is listed under ARC4. <1>

Sources/Archives (4)



Grid reference Centred ND 0922 6310 (14m by 14m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND06SE
Civil Parish HALKIRK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (2)

  • AXEHEAD (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)
  • POLISHED AXEHEAD (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2401 BC)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (1)

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