Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset


Date 1988

Event ID 1102004

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Note


Several burials and cists have been discovered on the summit of a gravel terrace 400 m NW of Kilmartin village. In 1982 and 1983 (G Barclay et al 1983), in advance of gravel extraction, the Central Excavation Unit, Historic Buildings and Monuments: Scottish Development Department, carried out a magnetometer survey and trial excavation, and further work was undertaken later in 1983 after the discovery of additional features. The present account makes the use of information provided by the excavation teams*. For cupmarks found on the E side of the gravel ridge, see NR89NW 80.

(1) Cist I, situated 750m SSW of Upper Largie,2 was aligned NE and SW and measured 1.25m by 0.7 m and 0.7m in depth internally; it was composed of four large slabs and a massive capstone (1.95m by l.5m and 0.l5m thick). The interior, which contained a disturbed filling of earth and stones, had clearly been rifled in the past. Craw recorded (Craw 1930) that the upper surface of the cover slab bore 'what may be a cupmarking', but it is likely that this is a natural hollow. The cist appears to have protruded above ground level, and although the stones that had accumulated round it in recent times were probably the result of field-clearance, it is likely that it was originally covered by a cairn.4 After excavation the cist was repositioned 120m to the S (NR 8319 9921), where it is now partly covered by a lay-by.

(2) Situated about 10m to the NE, Cist 2 was aligned NW and SE, and measured 0.9m by 0.5m and 0.5m in depth; it was composed of four large slabs with a substantial cover slab and basal slab, but no burial-deposits survived. The cist had been constructed in a pit, and the spaces between the upright slabs and the edge of the pit had been back-filled with stones and earth; the gaps between the basal slab and the side- and end-slabs had been neatly filled with cobbling.

(3) Cist 3 was discovered 75m SSW of Cist 2; aligned NNE and SSW, it measured 0.35m in length by 0.27m to 0.24m in breadth and 0.4m in depth. It had been set in a pit measuring l.5m by 1.3m, which had been back-filled with boulders. There was no capstone, and the cist contained charcoal and burnt bone. A radiocarbon assay of charcoal from the cist yielded a date of 1645 bc ? 70 (GU-1978), suggesting a date in calendar years late in the third millennium BC. Some 2 m to the N there were the remains of a Cinerary Urn containing a cremation and a plano-convex flint knife.

(4) Further features, named Features 1-4 by the excavator, and including what are probably the remains of two cists, were excavated in August 1983, some 30m W of Cist 1.

Feature 1 was a ruined cist aligned NNW and SSE, which had been constructed in an oval pit measuring about 1.25m by 1.15m and 0.35m in depth. The floor of the cist had been covered, except on the w, by a layer of grey clay some 120mm thick, with the E side-slab resting on this layer. There were no finds.

Feature 2 was a shallow pit (1.15m by 0.75m and 0.6m deep), which contained a layer of grey clay on which there was a deposit of dark soil with charcoal and tiny scraps of cremated bone. Sherds of pottery, charcoal and burnt stones were recovered, and it is possible that the burning took place within the pit, after which the upper part of the pit was lined with stones and the rest of the pit subsequently filled with further burnt material and rubble. Charcoal from the fill of this feature furnished two samples for radiocarbon assay; one yielded a date of 1050 bc ? 65 (GU-1976) the other of 1020 bc ? 55 (GU-1977). The degree of agreement and the limited margins of error suggest a date in calendar years between 1300 BC and 1200 BC.

Feature 3 was a pit (1.1m by 0.75m and 0.4m deep) filled with brown soil and only a few stones; there were no finds from within the pit, but the rim of an urn-like vessel was found nearby.

Feature 4 was a small hollow (0.55m by 0.5m and 0.1m deep) with a grey clayey fill and a few flecks of charcoal.


*The Commissioners are indebted to Mr G J Barclay and Mr J Rideout, HBM: SDD, and to Mr R J Mercer, Department of Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, for permission to use material in advance of publication; DES (1983), 22-3; Mercer, R J, 1983, Upper Largie Quarry, interim report.

People and Organisations