MHG3968 - Cairns - Kildonnan, Eigg


Two cairns. At least one of these, the larger, was reused for a Viking Burial.

Type and Period (2)

  • BURIAL CAIRN (Neolithic to Norse - 4000 BC to 1300 AD)
  • BURIAL (Norse - 800 AD to 1300 AD)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Cairns (NR)
OS 1:10000 map (1976)

Two adjoining tumuli, 500 to 600 yds S of Kildonnan, were excavated in 1875 by Prof MacPherson and A Joass and yielded Viking grave-goods, which were donated to the NMAS. Although the larger appeared to have been disturbed and no body was found, it yielded the following objects: fragments of an iron sword (Acc No: IL 160-1), a whetstone (IL 162), a silvered bronze penannular brooch (IL 163), a portion of a leather belt (IL 166) with buckle and clasp, (IL 159 & IL 165), an iron axehead (IL 167), small fragments of bone, beads etc., but no pottery or flint. Small fragments of woollen and linen cloth were also found (IL 164) (later confirmed by the Wool Industries Research Assoc. and the Shirley Institute (G M Crowfoot 1951)).
The smaller tumulus a few yards further S yielded another bronze penannular brooch (IL 173), splinters of flint, an iron sword (IL 174), a whetstone (IL 177), and beads of amber and jet (IL 170-2 and IL 175-6). The finds are dated to the second half of the 9th century AD.
N MacPherson 1878; S Grieg 1940; NMAS Catalogue 1892

Two contiguous turf-covered carins at NM 4899 8488, generally as planned by MacPherson. The westerly cairn measures about 12.0m in diameter and 1.2m high and has an excavation trench into the centre from the NW. The centre is partly filled with rubbish, but most of the stones forming the cist planned by MacPherson can be seen. It measures 1.1m NW-SE by at least 1.3m transversely. There is no trace of the SW end. The other cairn measures about 5.5m in diameter and is 0.5m high, with a central excavation in which no structure is exposed.
Surveyed at 1:10,000.
Visited by OS (AA) 8 May 1972

The mounds opened in 1875 contained two burials of probable 10th century date. ‘The grave-goods in the larger of the two consisted of a sword, spear, axe and whetstone, together with three beads, a Carolingian-style buckle and a plain ‘ball-type’ penannular brooch, both made of bronze…. The burial in the adjacent mound in Eigg was less well equipped with grave-goods, but they were similar in that they consisted of a sword and whetstone, with two beads, together with an Insular buckle and a simple penannular brooch, both also made of bronze.’ <1>

These two cairns stand side-by-side on a terrace above the shore about 120m S of Kildonnan farmhouse. That to the NW measures about 12m in diameter and 1.4m in height. The excavation trench driven into it from the NW in 1875, which was described by the Ordnance Survey in 1972, is still open and the cist slabs are still visible. The SE cairn measures 5.3m in diameter and 0.6m in height. The 1875 excavation trench is visible as a pit, slightly to the S of the centre of the cairn; it measures 2m by 1.3m and 0.5m in depth. The larger cairn, at least, is probably a prehistoric structure reused for a Viking burial. Given the size of the cist (not all of which is visible) the possibility that this is a chambered cairn cannot be discounted. Finally, short lengths of field bank extending to the W and NE from the larger cairn appear to pre-date the 19th-century excavations.
(EIGG01 497-8)
Visited by RCAHMS (AGCH) 12 October 2002

IL 159 is not the belt/clasp, but rather pieces of a bucket and belong to MHG14373. The NMS catalogue lists IL 161 as wooden fragments of a scabbard. <2>

An iron ferrule and a portion of an iron sickle (X.IL 168 and X.IL 169) demonstrably belong to Eigg Grave 2 (Pers Comm. James Graham-Campbell). <2>

Sources/Archives (8)



Grid reference Centred NM 4898 8488 (16m by 16m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NM48SE
Civil Parish SMALL ISLES
Geographical Area LOCHABER

Finds (12)

  • SICKLE (Norse - 800 AD to 1300 AD)
  • SWORD (Norse - 800 AD to 1300 AD)
  • PENANNULAR BROOCH (Norse - 800 AD to 1300 AD)
  • WHETSTONE (Norse - 800 AD to 1300 AD)
  • BELT (Norse - 800 AD to 1300 AD)
  • CLASP (Norse - 800 AD to 1300 AD)
  • AXEHEAD (Norse - 800 AD to 1300 AD)
  • TEXTILE (Norse - 800 AD to 1300 AD)
  • BEAD (Norse - 800 AD to 1300 AD)
  • SCABBARD (Norse - 800 AD to 1300 AD)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Norse - 800 AD to 1300 AD)
  • FERRULE (Norse - 800 AD to 1300 AD)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (1)

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