Accessibility

Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Sketewan

Cairn (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Sketewan

Classification Cairn (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 26380

Site Number NN95SW 36

NGR NN 944 521

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/26380

Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2024.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Digital Images


First 100 images shown. See the Collections panel (below) for a link to all digital images.

Administrative Areas

  • Council Perth And Kinross
  • Parish Little Dunkeld
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Perth And Kinross
  • Former County Perthshire

Archaeology Notes

NN95SW 36 944 521

This Early Bronze Age cairn was excavated by Roger Mercer, between August 20th and October 7th 1988. The cairn had survived as a low, sub-circular mound set upon the first terrace of the River Tay, its S side somewhat obscured by soil accumulation at the edge of a derelict railway cutting of the old Ballinluig to Aberfeldy railway line, and its N and NE side damaged, probably earlier this century.

The excavations revealed a complex history. Below the cairn was a deep layer of cultivated soil, which in turn had truncated the earliest recognised activity on the site, a number of structural and non-structural features from which only quantities of charcoal were recovered.

The funerary activity associated with the first phase of the cairn began with the construction and burning of a funeral pyre on a sub-rectangular stone-built platform. A very substantial slab-sided cist with a cobbled floor was built in a pit beside the pyre. A post was set upright in a hole dug in the fill between the side of the pit and one of the cists's slabs. From the cooling pyre a token amount of calcined bone was removed and washed; it was then spread in the cist and sprinkled freely around its edges. A 'Yorkshire Vase' Food vessel and a small plano-convex knife were placed on the top of the deposit in the cist, which was then part-filled with brown sand.

After a short period (one winter ?) during which a further amount of laminar filling accumulated in the cist the remaining void was filled with large cobbles and sand well above the level of the side slabs. A great slab of some 2.2 tonnes was hauled up and carefully 'trigged up' to stand with its base some 40cm above the upper edges of the cists's side slabs. At the smae time the funeral pyre was apparently re-kindled and again burnt fiecely. While the ashes were still hot enough to scorch stone, a cairn of some 8m diameter was built around the cist, almost certainly leaving the cap-stone over the cist visible in its surface.

There was no stratigraphic evidence to support the dating of what was probably the next phase, the construction of five or six small cists around the cairn. These cists were less regular and a good deal less massive than the central cist. All except one contained quantities of cremated human bone, but none contained anything else. The sixth cist appeared to have been deliberately emptied, its cover slab removed and tipped on end before all these cists were later buried.

Around the central cairn and over the ring of small cists a monumental kerb cairn was built with a discernable N-S axis. As a preparation for the building of the kerb-cairn, it would appear that the ring of small cists were 'sealed' by slabs. The inner kerb had its largest stones at the N side and its smallest at the S, while the outer kerb worked in exactly the opposite way, with boulders of up to 1.5 tonnes weight in its S sector. The space between the two kerbs was filled with stones varying from large cobbles to quite substantial boulders, but not before yet another cremation, once again washed clean of carbon, was placed against the inner face of the outer kerb. Before the construction could show any sign of dilapidation the space between the central cairn and the kerb-cairn. Finally the whole structure was covered with layer of small cobbles and the outer kerb-cairn was increased in height where necessary to produce what can be termed a 'drum-cairn' of some 21.5m diameter and about 1.3m high.

At a later date another sequence of activity began against the drum-cairn's SE side, where, unfortunately, the ground was disturbed by the 19th century railway cutting. First a circular palisade was constructed in a ring-groove of about 9m in diameter, and four cremations were placed in pits within it. Two of the deposits were contained in urns of Longworth's Primary Series. Subsequently the enclosure was sub-divided by the construction of a smaller palisaded enclosure of about 5m diameter. Then two more, similar enclosures were made. Within the surviving area no further burials were found in any of these smaller enclosures. The final stage in this episode was marked by the construction of another cairn of 8m diameter, covering the ring-grooves and set against the drum-cairn's SE side.

After the main cairn and the subsidiary cairn had somewhat collapsed a further two cremations were deposited. The cremations were conducted on the top of the rubble collapse, and amounts of calcined bone and charcoal were placed in pits which were each marked by the erection of an upright boulder. Finally the S side of the cairn was engilfed in a lynchet probably consequent upon the incorporation of the cairn within a prehistoric field boundary.

This project was sponsored and funded by the Scottish Development Department, Historic Buildings and Monuments.

R J Mercer 1988; Courier and Advertiser, 4 November 1988.

During the excavation, the buried soil beneath the central and ring cairns were described and samples taken for pollen analysis. The buried soils are typical brown sands, and differences between pollen spectra from the buried soil surfaces beneath the two cairn structures suggests a slight difference in age of the cairns, with the central cairn being earlier.

Data were collected on the stone types and sizes forming the inner and outer rings of the cairn. Statistical analysis showed no significance in the arrangement of stone types, nor when the types were arbitarily grouped into 'light' and 'dark' stones: whether this implies the stones of the ring cairn were not intended to be visible after construction is unclear. However, there was a concentration of significantly larger stones in the north-west quadrant of the outer ring; the importance of this observation is uncertain.

R Tipping and R Mercer 1989.

Activities

Excavation (20 August 1988 - 7 October 1988)

This Early Bronze Age cairn was excavated by Roger Mercer, between August 20th and October 7th 1988. The cairn had survived as a low, sub-circular mound set upon the first terrace of the River Tay, its S side somewhat obscured by soil accumulation at the edge of a derelict railway cutting of the old Ballinluig to Aberfeldy railway line, and its N and NE side damaged, probably earlier this century.

The excavations revealed a complex history. Below the cairn was a deep layer of cultivated soil, which in turn had truncated the earliest recognised activity on the site, a number of structural and non-structural features from which only quantities of charcoal were recovered.

The funerary activity associated with the first phase of the cairn began with the construction and burning of a funeral pyre on a sub-rectangular stone-built platform. A very substantial slab-sided cist with a cobbled floor was built in a pit beside the pyre. A post was set upright in a hole dug in the fill between the side of the pit and one of the cists's slabs. From the cooling pyre a token amount of calcined bone was removed and washed; it was then spread in the cist and sprinkled freely around its edges. A 'Yorkshire Vase' Food vessel and a small plano-convex knife were placed on the top of the deposit in the cist, which was then part-filled with brown sand.

After a short period (one winter ?) during which a further amount of laminar filling accumulated in the cist the remaining void was filled with large cobbles and sand well above the level of the side slabs. A great slab of some 2.2 tonnes was hauled up and carefully 'trigged up' to stand with its base some 40cm above the upper edges of the cists's side slabs. At the smae time the funeral pyre was apparently re-kindled and again burnt fiecely. While the ashes were still hot enough to scorch stone, a cairn of some 8m diameter was built around the cist, almost certainly leaving the cap-stone over the cist visible in its surface.

There was no stratigraphic evidence to support the dating of what was probably the next phase, the construction of five or six small cists around the cairn. These cists were less regular and a good deal less massive than the central cist. All except one contained quantities of cremated human bone, but none contained anything else. The sixth cist appeared to have been deliberately emptied, its cover slab removed and tipped on end before all these cists were later buried.

Around the central cairn and over the ring of small cists a monumental kerb cairn was built with a discernable N-S axis. As a preparation for the building of the kerb-cairn, it would appear that the ring of small cists were 'sealed' by slabs. The inner kerb had its largest stones at the N side and its smallest at the S, while the outer kerb worked in exactly the opposite way, with boulders of up to 1.5 tonnes weight in its S sector. The space between the two kerbs was filled with stones varying from large cobbles to quite substantial boulders, but not before yet another cremation, once again washed clean of carbon, was placed against the inner face of the outer kerb. Before the construction could show any sign of dilapidation the space between the central cairn and the kerb-cairn. Finally the whole structure was covered with layer of small cobbles and the outer kerb-cairn was increased in height where necessary to produce what can be termed a 'drum-cairn' of some 21.5m diameter and about 1.3m high.

At a later date another sequence of activity began against the drum-cairn's SE side, where, unfortunately, the ground was disturbed by the 19th century railway cutting. First a circular palisade was constructed in a ring-groove of about 9m in diameter, and four cremations were placed in pits within it. Two of the deposits were contained in urns of Longworth's Primary Series. Subsequently the enclosure was sub-divided by the construction of a smaller palisaded enclosure of about 5m diameter. Then two more, similar enclosures were made. Within the surviving area no further burials were found in any of these smaller enclosures. The final stage in this episode was marked by the construction of another cairn of 8m diameter, covering the ring-grooves and set against the drum-cairn's SE side.

After the main cairn and the subsidiary cairn had somewhat collapsed a further two cremations were deposited. The cremations were conducted on the top of the rubble collapse, and amounts of calcined bone and charcoal were placed in pits which were each marked by the erection of an upright boulder. Finally the S side of the cairn was engilfed in a lynchet probably consequent upon the incorporation of the cairn within a prehistoric field boundary.

This project was sponsored and funded by the Scottish Development Department, Historic Buildings and Monuments.

R J Mercer 1988; Courier and Advertiser, 4 November 1988.

References

MyCanmore Image Contributions


Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions