MHG3013 - North east cairn - Balnuaran of Clava


A chambered round cairn in the main cairn group at Clava.

Type and Period (1)

  • CHAMBERED ROUND CAIRN (Early Bronze Age to Middle Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 1251 BC?) + Sci.Date

Protected Status

Full Description

A chambered round cairn in the main cairn group at Clava.

NH74SE 1 7576 4447.

The site was Scheduled with the other Clava cairns in 1882.

(Centred NH 75714443) Stone Circles & Cairns (OE) (Urns containing calcined bones found)
OS 6"map, Inverness-shire, 2nd ed., (1906)

Clava passage-grave (Balnuaran of Clava, North-east) The cairn lies only 123 feet to the north-east of the central cairn, in the middle of the Clava cemetery. The kerb is of massive boulders and has a diameter of 55 feet. The stones graduate irregularly in size from 3 feet by the entrance on the south-west side to 1 foot 6 inches at the back, though the pair of stones which actually form the entrance are lower, 2 feet high. The cairn material is now piled up inside the kerb and reaches a height of nearly 10 feet. There is a distinct platform of stoney material, rather irregular in outline, extending for 10 to 18 feet beyond the kerb and having a depth of about 1 foot 6 inches.
The passage is constructed of large boulders. The chamber has a diameter of 12-13 feet. The lowest course is also of upright boulders, those by the entrance 3 feet 9 inches and 3 feet high, those at the back 2 feet 5 inches high. The wall at the back still remains up to 7 feet high consisting of eight rough and irregular courses including some very large stones. There is only a slight oversailing of the upper part giving a maximum overhang of 1 foot.
The cairn is surrounded by a circle of eleven standing stones (and one small earthfast stone on the north-north-east). The stones are irregularly spaced and vary from 24 to 37 feet from the kerb having an overall diameter of 110 to 117 feet. This irregularity is probably partly due to the fact that some of the stones (those on either side of the entrance, and the next stone to the north and north-east stone (W Jolly 1882) were reset in the 19th century. The two stones on either side of the entrance one 9 feet and 5 feet 3 ins. High.
Cupmarks occur on the innermost stone of the passage on the north-west side (W Jolly 1882) and also on a stone on the north side of the kerb
(S Piggott 1956). The former stone has certainly four and possibly
seven simple cups; the latter, which measures 2 feet 8 inches by 1 foot 5 inches, is covered with cupmarks, one cup and ring meandering lines.
A S Henshall, Visited 15 April 1957; W Jolly 1882; J Fraser 1884; C Innes 1862; S Piggott 1956. <1>-<5>

NH 7576 4447 The remains of this cairn are as described above.
Revised at 1/2500.
Visited by OS (W D J) 25 April 1962.

Air photographs of the Balnuaran of Clava cairns taken by Jill Harden in 1989, are in Inverness Museum (8901.21-22 and 8907.02 INVMG). Information from J Harden 1989.

NH 7576 4447 The second season of excavation (see Bradley 1994) focused on the NE passage grave and investigated the chronological relationship between the five main elements on the site: the internal structure of the cairn, its kerb, its entrance passage, the platform upon which the site appears to be built and the stone circle which surrounds the entire monument. All proved to have been constructed during a single phase. The cairn contained a core of massive blocks and redeposited turf or topsoil which formed a stable structure supporting the corbelled burial chamber. This was covered by a skin of smaller rubble which was revetted by the kerbstones. These were only shallowly bedded in the ground and had been held in position by a rubble ramp piled up against the exterior of the monument. The composition of this ramp or platform matched the constructional sequence in the cairn itself, with quarried slabs similar to those employed in the chamber towards the base of this deposit and rounded boulders towards its surface. This feature continued unbroken across the entrance to the tomb and extended outwards as far as the stone circle. One of the monoliths belonging to this circle lacked any socket and was bedded in the tail of the ramp- thus it could not have been erected after that material was in position. The entrance passage had been cleared of any archaeological deposits during an unrecorded excavation. A few flecks of cremated bone were found on the surface of the platform. Over a hundred lithic artefacts were recovered during the excavation and samples were taken for study by soil micromorphology, pollen analysis and radiocarbon dating.
A section was also cut through the rubble ramp of the SW passage grave (NH 7568 4447) (NH74SE 4) at the point where the kerbstones were at their lowest. In this case the kerb lacked any sockets and again the ramp must have been a primary feature of the monument. It was constructed in exactly the same manner as the platform of the NE cairn, but in this case it had been surfaced with flat slabs.
Sponsors: British Academy, Historic Scotland, Reading University, the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, with additional assistance from Highland Regional Council and National Trust for Scotland.
R Bradley 1995. <6>

The cairn was photographed at midwinter sunset in 1995 by Douglas Scott.

An Astronomical Assessment of the Clava Cairns by D Scott.

Possible cup-marked stone removed from site over past year. Reported and Hyperlinked photos by D Scott.
A M Fox, Highland Council, 14.03.02

Jim Bone AP 2003 - HAW 10/2003

Site visited and photographed by Angela Lake, 23/9/2003. The Highland Archaeology Challenge. See Assoc. Docs. File for notes and plan.
J Aitken : 22/1/2004

A photograph of this cairn showing the kerb was submitted to the Highland HER Flickr group in June 2011 by "CaptainOates". <7>

The cairn was re-scheduled together with the other cairns in the group by Historic Environmnet Scotland in 2016. <8> <9>

Radiocarbon dates were obtained as part of the archaeological investigations by Bradley, and were published in his 2000 publication. They indicate that the cairn was built in the Early Bronze Age. <1>

(see MHG63105 for cup marked stone)

Sources/Archives (36)



Grid reference Centred NH 7576 4447 (40m by 40m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH74SE
Geographical Area INVERNESS

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