Cairnpapple

Cairn, Henge

Site Name Cairnpapple

Classification Cairn, Henge

Alternative Name(s) Cairnpapple Hill; Cairniepapple

Canmore ID 47919

Site Number NS97SE 16

NGR NS 9872 7173

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council West Lothian
  • Parish Torphichen
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District West Lothian
  • Former County West Lothian

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Cairnpapple

The most important mainland archaeological site in Scotland, Cairnpapple was a centre of worship and burial for over 3000 years. First the burial ground, then a henge of 24 large stones, and then an enormous cairn; in all five phases of ritual burial and cremations, with concentric rings of pits, ditching and banking. Excavated 1947

Taken from "West Lothian: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Stuart Eydmann, Richard Jaques and Charles McKean, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press http://www.rias.org.uk

Archaeology Notes

9872 7173.

(NS 9872 7173) Henge & Cairn (NR)

(Undated) OS map annotation.

A complex site on the summit of Cairnpapple Hill excavated by Piggott in 1947-8, was found to have five distinct periods ranging from c 2000 BC to c 1400 BC. The first period was represented by a cremation cemetery followed by a Class II henge, within which was an oval setting of 24 standing stones, containing two burials each accompanied by a beaker.

In Period 3, the standing stones were taken down and a cairn, 50' in diameter, was built to cover two cists, one containing a food vessel. The cairn was subsequently enlarged to twice its original diameter, and covered two cinerary urns, each inverted over a cremated burial. The final period is represented by four undatable inhumation burials with the skeletons laid out in extended position.

S Piggott 1950; 1951; J N G Ritchie and A Ritchie 1972.

See DoE guide.

S Piggott 1951.

As described.

Resurveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS(JP) 20 August 1974.

NS 9872 7148 A watching brief was maintained during the excavation of the track for a new footpath. The path was located 25m to the S of the henge and joined the Custodian's office to an already existing gravel path. Removal of the turf and a small depth of dark brown topsoil revealed the surface of a subsoil horizon of reddish brown grit and gravel. Examination of the surface revealed no obvious archaeological features. No finds were recovered.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Stewart 2000

The capstone of the smaller Cist B from the penultimate cairn, long thought to have been destroyed and/or lost, has been relocated (Dr S Sweeney-Turner) intact and on-site. Given that it is not indicated on Piggott's original excavation plan, the stone appears to have been moved after excavation in 1948 (see Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 1947-48, Vol. 82, 97-8; plate XXIV and RCAHMS collections no.WL 1832) to its current position as the Westernmost stone in the kerb of the final cairn in the Bronze Age sequence, where it has been overlooked for the last 55 years. However, it is clearly not a kerbstone, and matches Piggott's 1948 photographs perfectly. The stone has suffered weather damage at what is currently its Southern end, but is otherwise as Piggott described it - a squarish sandstone slab almost 5 x 5 feet, and approximately 1.5 foot thick. The fate of the stones from the cist walls is still uncertain.

Information via e-mail from Dr S Sweeney-Turner [Cairnpapple site custodian] to RCAHMS, 15 October 2003

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