MHG9877 - Burnt Mound - Kilearnan


No summary available.

Type and Period (1)

  • BURNT MOUND (Middle Bronze Age to Early Iron Age - 1260 BC to 400 BC)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

At NC 9534 1747, in a sheltered position in rising moorland open to the NE, is a burnt mound; it is roughly oval, measuring some 14m E-W by 12m, with a depression in the E side opening out onto the bed of a dried-up stream. The mound is 1.5m high and the content of heat-stained stones and blackened earth is exposed by erosion and rabbit burrowing. Surveyed at 1:10,560.
Visited by OS (J M) 12 May 1976.

Forestry ploughing by the Forestry Commission in 1982 at Kilearnan prompted survey and excavation work led by J Barber and commissioned by Historic Buildings and Monuments (predecessor organisation to Historic Scotland). Several monuments were investigated, including hut circles, cairns, and burnt mounds. This burnt mound had been recorded by the Ordnance Survey in 1976. It was said to be 14 m east-west by 12 m north/south and 1.5 m high, with a depression to its east side which opened onto a dry stream-bed. During the 1982 survey the monument was recognizable as a horseshoe-shaped mound of approximately the dimensions given above. The whole area had been ploughed by the Forestry Commission and the previously noted stream-bed was no longer visible on the ground, although a contour survey indicated a depression running approximately north/south in the correct position. Surface indications suggested that no great damage had resulted to the monument from ploughing, with only the uppermost layers disturbed, exposing angular fragments of fire-cracked stone and flecks of charcoal in the upcast. A small-scale excavation of this mound was carried out. The aims were to investigate the depression for evidence of a pit or trough and to sample charcoal-bearing layers, any buried soils and layers within the expected pit for environmental and dating purposes. Extreme weather conditions militated against completion and the investigation of this monument was continued during the 1983 season. The trench was small in relation to the size of the mound. Four phases of activity were represented, three of which were connected with the heating of stone. If the interpretation of two soil formations over an abandoned site is correct, then a period of at least 600 years must have elapsed between its use in Phase 1 and its re¬use in Phase 3, as such brown-earth soils may have taken a few hundred years to develop in each case. The stone revetments within the Phase 3 pit were purely structural and, even if partly robbed, could never have been watertight. If the pit was used for boiling water, it must have had a watertight lining probably in the form of a wooden trough or skins over a wooden frame, but no trace of a lining was found although corner posts were specifically looked for. The final appearance of the mound seems to be largely due to activity in Phase 3 and the amount of material dumped at this time would suggest that use continued over a longer period, or more frequently, than on previous occasions. Phase 4 is probably best interpreted as the use of the monument by itinerants who built a fire in the lee of the convenient windbreak afforded by the mound. Pollen samples were taken from various contexts but in several cases pollen survival was negligible. Pollen in the first of the brown-earth soils comprised 50% alder, 25% grasses and 10% dandelion family. An open woodland with some grasses and herbs is indicated, not unlike and possibly contemporary with the flagstone-level sample from Hut 2. No context from Phase 1 produced enough charcoal for radiocarbon dating, but Phase 2 was represented by two dates: 1150—830 cal BC (GU-1914) for material behind the third phase revetment in the pit; and 1260-810 cal BC (GU-1921) for charcoal from dumped material. Two dates related to Phase 3 were also obtained. The lowest fill from the Phase 3 pit produced a date of 1050-400 cal BC (GU-1912), while charcoal within the Phase 3 dump was dated to 1130-790 cal BC (GU-1913). Phase 4, when the mound was long abandoned, was dated to cal AD 1300-1490 (GU-1915) using charcoal retrieved from the hearth. The long time-span between the first use of the site and the third phase, suggested by the brown-earth development, cannot be corroborated from the radiocarbon results; but due to the potential problem of later charcoal washing down through the stony mound material to contaminate earlier strata, these results are not interpreted here as definite disproof. <1>

The site was Scheduled with other monuments in the vicinity in 1988.

Following re-assessment, the Scheduling was revoked by Historic Environment Scotland in 2016. <2>

Sources/Archives (2)



Grid reference Centred NC 9534 1747 (24m by 24m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NC91NE
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish KILDONAN

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