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Miscellaneous Posts by greywether

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Showing 1-20 of 35 miscellaneous posts. Most recent first | Next 20

Carlin Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Coles (PSAS 37) writing of this site in the early 20th century records a conversation with the tenant farmer who stated that there was "in his father's time, several great stones - none nearly so huge as the Carlin, however - in a Circle, within which was a very low mound or cairn ... At various times ... these blocks ... had been removed, the mound of stones carried away for dykes .... "

This would add further support to this stone being the recumbent of a largely destroyed RSC.

Cothiemuir Wood (Stone Circle)

Interesting chronology point following Bradley's recent excavations. Revised from Canmore.

"... three small trenches were excavated at the Cothiemuir Wood stone circle, Donside. The trenches were designed to assess the structural sequence of the monument....

A low cairn, or platform of rubble, was constructed on a flat hilltop, which may have been scarped level. The platform was open at the centre and revetted on the exterior with an exterior buttress of rubble, and on the interior by a bank of massive boulders.

There may have been a cist in the middle of the site where the filling of an unrecorded excavation contains a number of burnt stones.

The recumbent stone circle was a later addition to the monument and the sockets of two of the monoliths could be seen to cut through the structure of the cairn...

The sequence is similar to that observed at Tomnaverie."

Lochan Hakel (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

The guidebook from which the illustration is taken gives a slightly different description of the carvings from that given in Canmore.

"There are about 36 separate conical cups up to 3 inches in diameter; 20 of these are surrounded by rings up to 7 inches across. The southerly end of the boulder bears a rather oddly shaped projection or boss which has been carved artificially."

Castleton (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

This is an attempt to tie up all the references to the Castleton sites.

It includes the Castleton series number where one exists. These were used by R W B Morris in The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland [PRASS]. They also appear as alternative names in Canmore but, where they are not consistent with PRASS, I've used the PRASS number to help cross-referencing that publication. Castleton 7 is not in PRASS but it is referred to by this name in Canmore.

Morris also used a county or regional numbering series (like that used for chambered cairns). This does not seem to have caught on but is included here also, where appropriate. CEN = Central region.

The 10 figure grid references are from my GPS in the cases where I have found the site. The other references are from Canmore.

For each site, I have included the "best" motif; full details are in Canmore.

Sites NW of the farmhouse
Castleton 4 [CEN 4]; NS88NE 11; NS 8552 8816; cup and four rings.
Castleton 5 [CEN 5]; NS88NE 14; NS 8554 8811; cup and five rings.
Castleton 7; NS88NE 30; NS 85523 88185 (for 7a); cup and nine rings.

Sites NE of the farmhouse
Castleton 1 [CEN 1]; NS88NE 3 & 52; NS 8587 8840 & NS 8589 8839; cup and five rings.
Castleton 2 [CEN 2]; NS88NE 9 & 53; NS 85818 88303; cup and one ring.
Castleton 6 [CEN 6]; NS88NE 12; NS 8598 8825; cup and one ring.

Sites S and SE of the farmhouse
Castleton 3 [CEN 3]; NS88NE 10; NS 85710 87969; cup and five rings.
NS88NE 15 & 31; NS 857 878; cup and three rings.
NS88NE 25; NS 8615 8771; cup and one ring.
NS88NE 26; NS 8602 8771; cup and four rings.

Lochhill (Chambered Cairn)

This site was fully excavated and nothing remains to be seen.

Slewcairn (Chambered Cairn)

This long cairn and Lochhill are examples of mortuary enclosures in SW Scotland.

At this site, three large timber posts were contained within an 8m long compartment situated S of two portal stones and a facade (see plan).

Further to the S and probably after the mortuary enclosure use, a passage ran from near the W of the cairn to a setting of four standing stones situated in the area of the southernmost post of the mortuary enclosure. A paved area ran to the S of these stones.

Subsequently, the passage, the line of the mortuary enclosure and the paved area were filled in with stones.

Finally, the originally horn-shaped cairn was enlarged to a trapezoidal cairn with the internal features obscured.

(Drawn from a number of sources and interpretations)

Balbirnie (Stone Circle)

The reconstructed stone circle represents a number of phases of use.

The latter phases include the insertion of burial cists within the stone circle and after the third of these was inserted (the one next to the square paved area) the whole central area was covered by a cairn.

The ceremonial monuments do not end here.

A ring ditch and ring cairn were built around the time of the stone circle near the Balfarg Riding School sites.

Grimsay Wheelhouse (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

What's a Wheelhouse then?

Wheelhouses date from the Scottish Iron Age and are roughly contemporary with brochs. Let's say, roughly, 500 bce to 500ce.

A wheelhouse is a circular drystone building with a single entrance. Its interior is divided by a number of stone piers arranged like the spokes of a wheel. The set of bays this creates open onto a larger, central room. The bays often seem to have had corbelled stone roofs while the larger central space could only have been roofed with timbers or whalebones.

Wheelhouses have sometimes been called "aisled round houses" because, in many cases, the stone piers - the spokes of the wheel - do not join up with the outer wall of the house. Instead, there is a gap spanned by massive lintels.

One of the best known wheelhouses is Kilpheder in South Uist excavated by Tom Lethbridge in 1952. Despite the best of intentions, there is now nothing meaningful to be seen at Kilpheder.

The only Uist site where the layout of a wheelhouse can be appreciated is at Grimsay. The few examples in Shetland are generally incorporated into other buildings making them less easy to interpret or appreciate.

Barpa Langass (Chambered Cairn)

Wee_malky refers to the inside of the cairn possibly being unsafe. Certainly a consideration if you're sitting in there with the best part of 2m of cairn material above you!

There is also evidence of a repair job having been necessary during the building of the cairn or while it was still in use.

As you enter the cairn, you will see a 1.6m pillar with some cairn material to your right. The pillar supports the first lintel of the chamber (the one after the surviving passage lintel), the N end of which does not rest on a chamber stone in the way the other lintels do.

Presumably the lintel broke or (more likely) was threatening to and the pillar was put in to support it. The cairn material to its right could be further support or the blocking off of that area.

Erskine Beveridge in his 1911 North Uist , Its Archaeology and Topography (recently reprinted) says of this site,
We have been assured upon the best authority that Langass Barp contains a second chamber with its separate access from the north side, our informant having entered this within the past thirty years; while it is also stated that even a third chamber exists. Upon this subject we can add little, except that the east chamber already disclosed occupies but a small proportion of the whole structure, ample space remaining for at least two others.
No Hebridean Passage Grave has produced definite evidence of more than one chamber and, because many are ruined, the plans of most are known. Perhaps the locals were just having a little fun.

There are the remains of 20 chambered cairns on North Uist - that's about one per 15 square km (6 square miles). So it must have been an important place in Neolithic Scotland.

Nearly all are of the type known (not surprisingly) as Hebridean Passage Graves.

Typically, these will have a round cairn (averaging c 25m) with a small V-shaped forecourt leading to a short passage which opens into a round or oval chamber. The chamber walls are made of large contiguous orthostats and the capstones rest directly on these.

Cairns have a ring of impressive peristaliths averaging about 1.5 to 2m high.

The passages are orientated towards the E.

Distribution is: all of the Outer Hebrides; Skye; and a few on the mainland as far S as Achnacreebeag near Oban.

Cairnderry (Chambered Tomb)

The 2003 excavations uncovered a number of pits below slabs outside the cairn all containing cremated bone and charcoal.

In one of them (just outside one of the cairn's passage entrances) was an upturned collared urn and a fine battleaxe from early second millennium bce.

Further evidence of the continuing use of Neolithic monuments (or, at least, their location) into the Bronze Age.

The Macleod Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

From Prehistoric Harris (1) by M & R Curtis

"It has been suggested that this stone was erected by prehistoric man as part of a calendrical system: at the equinoxes the sun sets exactly due west over St Kilda, as seen from the stone."

Sgarasta (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Canmore NMRS NG09SW2

This 2m high stone is said to have been part of a stone circle as other prostrate stones, probably not in their original position, are lying nearby.

Cnoc Nan Dursainean (Chambered Cairn)

Canmore (NB53SW2) is way out of date on this not having been updated since 1964! Some nonsense about the cairn being surrounded by a stone circle.

Henshall wrote it up in 1972 as a Hebridean chambered tomb set (unusually) in a square cairn. And that's how it still looks today!

Clach an Trushal (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Said to once have been surrounded by a stone circle "like at Callanish" but the stones were broken up and incorporated into field walls.

The surrounding field walls certainly contain much larger stones than you normally see in dry stone dykes.

See Canmore NMRS NB35SE1 and Joolio Geordio's weblog at for much more information.

Cladh Hallan Round Houses (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

This is a brief summary of the points made in the Cladh Hallan tv programme. I'm sure it does not do justice to all the interesting points the excavator, Mike Parker Pearson, was making.


The roundhouses date from about 1000bce.

In the NE quadrant of all three of the houses, burials had been interred. Sheep and dogs were in the upper levels but human burials were at the lowest level.

The human burials were articulated but crouched with the knees drawn tightly up under the chin. Radio carbon dating showed that, in two cases, the individuals had died up to 600 years before interment in the houses.

A number of scientific tests led to the view that these individuals had been preserved in a mummified state prior to their burial. Careful use of the acid in peat was a factor in the mummification process. The mummification was more likely to have been of the South American "in the open" type rather that in tombs like Egyptian mummies.

It was thought that these ancestors were preserved so that they could be brought out for important ceremonies or perhaps consulted in some way.

The bodies were eventually buried as part of a change in belief systems possibly introduced by newcomers to the area.

Ormaig (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

There are six areas of decoration here as listed in the Royal Commission Inventory and the Kilmartin extract.

The two areas which you see when you arrive at the site (with the rosetttes and the graffiti) are, in the Inventory, one site - number (1).

Number (2) is described as "a steeply sloping finger of bare rock a short distance N of (1)". It is about 6m long running N to S. Heavily decorated including a further rosette.

Number (3) is "immediately W of the top of (2)" - two groups of cups and single rings.

Number (4) is 2m NNW of (3). Six plain cups.

Number (5) is 1m N of (4). Nine cups and five cups with single rings.

Number (6) is 4m N of (2). Ten cups.

(2) to (6) are in the forest, covered in pine needles and may be difficult to find.

Dalnaneun Farm, Loch Nell (Chambered Cairn)

The simple design of this cairn led to its being excavated in 1970/1 in a largely unsuccessful attempt to establish the chronology of Clyde cairns.

The excavation did reveal one feature which cannot be seen at the site - a lintel which would have spanned the two portal stones at the NE.

Auchentorlie (removed) (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art)

The cup and ring marked rocks at Auchentorlie (aka Greenland) were threatened by encroaching quarrying and removed in 1994 following detailed analysis and planning including excavation of part of the surrounding area.

It was intended that they subsequently appear as part of a number of public displays but this had not happened the last time I went looking for them.

Aberdeenshire (County)

Aberdeen University held an exhibition of carved stone balls earlier this year. Some 70 were on display - which must be pretty well their entire collection.

They have about eight or so on permanent display and these were supplemented by five cases of rarely seen items.

Images of all of these are posted here.

A couple of apologies. I had no tripod so some from the permanent display (which were in a dark corner) are blurred. Posted nevertheless as they still give some idea of the decoration. Also, I've lost the names of two of the findposts.

The balls in the cases are shown from two angles.

Some background info on the balls.

411 known examples at the last count.
Vast majority 7cm diameter. 12 at 9-11 cm and some oval ones.
Stone used varies considerably - sandstone, quartzite, gneiss, ...
Distribution - largely Aberdeenshire, Grampians. Also other parts of Scotland. Five found outside Scotland.
Context/Date - Skara Brae finds are late Neolithic. Reports of some finds in Bronze Age contexts but none from recent well-documented excavations.

Purpose? The exhibition offered no real explanation so it's open season on that one!
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