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Moncreiffe House

Cairn (Prehistoric), Cup Marked Stone (Prehistoric), Henge (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age), Stone Circle (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age), Timber Circle (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age), Unidentified Pottery (Neolithic)

Site Name Moncreiffe House

Classification Cairn (Prehistoric), Cup Marked Stone (Prehistoric), Henge (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age), Stone Circle (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age), Timber Circle (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age), Unidentified Pottery (Neolithic)

Alternative Name(s) Moncrieffe House Policies

Canmore ID 28012

Site Number NO11NW 11

NGR NO 1328 1933

NGR Description Removed to NO 1360 1933

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NO11NW 11 1328 1933 removed to 1360 1933

(NO 1328 1933) Cairn Circle (NR)

A circle of eleven stones, three of which are now buried.

On the NW side, outside the circle, are two stones, one of which has fifteen cupmarks on its upper face. This is stated (J Simpson 1868) to have been removed from the centre of the circle c.1820 when charred bones were found (Name Book 1860) but Allen (J R Allen 1882) doubts this because it is held by the roots of an old tree. J Simpson (1868) could see a slight rise in the ground inside the Circle indicative of a barrow.

Name Book 1860; J Simpson 1868; J R Allen 1882.

Generally as described and planned except that the cup-marked stone is now in the centre of the circle. On the south side of the circle is the bank shown on Allen's plan. It has maxima heights of 0.5m externally and 0.3m internally.

One stone remains outside the circle to the NW.

Revised at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (R D L) 9 June 1964.

The stone circle was re-erected in the grounds of Moncreiffe House (NO11NW 41.00) in 1980 when roadworks threatened it.

Re-surveyed at 1:2500 at NO 1360 1933.

Information from OS Reviser 29 August 1980.

This stone circle, which was excavated in 1974, was not a recumbent stone circle as suggested by the excavator, but one of a series of small stone circles that are common to Perthshire. It has been re-erected at a new location close to Moncrieffe House (NO11NW 41.00).

The cup-marked granite boulder which lay within the interior of the circle until it was excavated, now lies 9.6m to the W of the circle. It measures 1.47m by 1.38m and is at least 0.5m in thickness; on its upper surface there are at least 14 cupmarks, the largest of which is 80mm in diameter.

Visited by RCAHMS (JRS, IF), 9 December 1996.

RCAHMS 1994.

This Class I henge is plotted on a distribution map of henge monuments, ring-cairns, pit-circles and recumbent stone circles covering central and eastern Scotland (RCAHMS 1994, 39, fig. A).

Information from RCAHMS (ARG) 17 October 1997.


Publication Account (2004)

This stone circle, which formerly stood on the north verge of the west drive of Moncrieffe House, was completely excavated by Dr Margaret Stewart in 1974 (Stewart 1985). No formal recumbent setting was discovered, but Stewart’s interpretation of some of the features she uncovered has led to the inclusion of the ring in Burl’s lists as a possible recumbent stone circle (1995, 162–3; 2000, 432, Per 40; 2005a, 162–3), though other researchers have rejected the comparison (Barnatt 1989, 324–5, no. 7:41; Ruggles 1999, 188). The excavation revealed that the construction of the circle was but one stage in a complex sequence, which began with a small penannular henge monument measuring about 9m in internal diameter and enclosing a ring of post-holes. The stratigraphic sequence thereafter is not entirely clear, but the south-west half of the stone circle was erected over the filled ditch of the henge and was thought to represent the third phase. Stewart, however, believed that several of the stones were set into earlier sockets, which constituted one element of her second phase. In this phase she proposed that a small kerbed cairn surrounded by a ring of free-standing orthostats had stood on the site. This was completely dismantled at some point prior to the construction of the stone circle that was still standing there at the outset of the excavation. The latter measured about 10m in overall diameter and comprised eight orthostats. These were graded in the sense that the bulkiest and tallest were set around the south-west arc, an aspect of the architecture that is brought out most clearly by Romily Allen’s sketch of 1880 (1882, 92, fig 12). A series of lesser stones were laid horizontally between the three orthostats on the south-west quarter, and these Stewart presented as the equivalent of the recumbent of the circles in the North-east. Concentrically within the interior there was also a cairn measuring about 6.5m in diameter over a low boulder kerb. Observing that the kerbstones appeared to be doubled up in one or two places, she interpreted this as a ring-cairn. In this central area there were seven pits, several of which may have held cremations, and a mixed deposit on the north-east included fragments of urns, Grooved Ware and Late Bronze Age pottery. There was also some 2 cwt of quartz scattered amongst the cairn material. There is no need to outline the subsequent phases of activity, but it is important to focus briefly upon the supposed stone circles. It cannot be stated too strongly that no formal recumbent setting existed here (cf Ruggles 1999, 188), and thus Moncrieffe House has no place in lists of recumbent stone circles. At best it can be said that the apparent focus of the design on the south-west quarter suggests that there are shared concepts, just as there are with other types of megalithic settings, but the detail of their architectural expression is very different. The pattern of grading here, for example, and indeed amongst other stones circles in eastern Perthshire (RCAHMS 1994, 33), appears to have alternated short and tall in a way that is most clearly demonstrated in the heights of the stones around the south-west half of the circle. The tallest and largest stone (IV) stood 2m high on the west north-west and was run a close second by the stone 1.9m high on the south-south-west (II), but the one between them (III) was little more than 1.45m high, while the next stone round onto the south-east (I) was 1.15m high, followed by another taller one of 1.75m (VIII). The horizontal slabs laid between the orthostats on the south-west, far from being a surrogate recumbent, were surely a kerb (cf Barnatt 1989, 325). Furthermore, this almost certainly extended round the south-east quarter, where Alexander Thom’s plan taken in the course of the excavations includes another three displaced boulders lying between the orthostats (Thom et al 1980, 350–1). At some stage this was almost certainly a composite monument comprising a cairn bounded by a ring of alternating short and tall orthostats set in a kerb; this was probably most impressive around the south-west half of the circumference. The status of the inner kerb recorded by Stewart is less clear, but possibly represents an earlier line that was robbed to build the kerb between the ringstones. There is certainly no unequivocal evidence that this inner cairn was a ring-cairn with an internal court, an interpretation that perhaps owes more to what was then known about the cairns within recumbent stone circles than to the evidence recovered in the course of the excavation. By heR own admission the deposits in the centre had been churned.


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