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Islay, Cultoon

Stone Circle (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age)

Site Name Islay, Cultoon

Classification Stone Circle (Neolithic) - (Bronze Age)

Canmore ID 37233

Site Number NR15NE 1

NGR NR 19558 56975

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


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

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilchoman
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NR15NE 1 1956 5697.

(NR 1956 5697) Standing Stones (NR)

OS 6" map (1901)

A stone circle, which, before excavation by the Islay Historical Works Group in 1974 and 1975, consisted of two standing stones and ten prostrate stones forming a rough oval about 45yds by 40yds on a low knoll. The prostrate stones were more or less turf-covered.

The excavation showed that although all the stones had been brought to the site, only two had been erected and in some cases the sockets had not been dug. The site had evidently been abandoned in the middle of construction and those sockets already dug had been allowed to silt up, although one had been deliberately filled, confirming that some change of plan had occurred before the final abandonment. C14 indicated that peat began to form on the site in the 8th century BC, only after it reached its present condition. Mesolithic flint microliths were found on and in the topsoil of the old land-surface; and larger flints, presumably Neolithic, were found on the land-surface and in the lower levels of the peat, where scrapers and hollow-based points of Bronze Age type were also found. Caches of flint flakes, which Mackie interprets as votive offerings, were found in the peat next to the standing stones. Apart from Stonehenge this is the only stone circle which has revealed evidence of never having been completed.

E W MacKie 1976

Cultoon Stone Circle : name board. This circle, occupying a prominent swelling in a low lying area of peat, is generally as described. Mackie's excavation areas are still open, but it is not expected that excavation will continue (G Booth, Curator, Islay Museum, Port Charlotte, MSS notes and oral).

Twelve stones of notable size lie recumbent, without apparent regard for orientation or spacing, in a rough oval shape measuring overall 45.0m NE-SW by 35.0m NW-SE, Of the two standing, the northernmost is 1.5m high and the other 1.9m, with those recumbent of a similar size range. Two socket holes are clearly visible, and the excavation appears to have revealed a sinuous stony bank connecting several of the stones around the SW side. A full excavation report is pending.

Surveyed at 1:10 000.

Visited by OS (JRL) 16 June 1978


Field Visit (May 1980)

NR 195 569. Situated in barren moorland 500m SW of Cultoon there are three upright and twelve prone blocks of stone. Excavation in 1974 and 1975 revealed, however, that with a single exception, the prone monoliths had never been set upright (MacKie 1974)*. The holes dug to receive many of the stones were discovered and are now marked by concrete, but it was clear that several of the stones had never been erected in their sockets, while in other cases there were sockets without adjacent stones. The excavated stone-holes had been allowed to fill up naturally with stones and silt some time before the site was covered by a growth of peat; a sample taken from the base of the peat layer produced a radiocarbon determination of 765 bc +/- 40 (SRR-500). There is little doubt that the original intention was to set up the stones on the perimeter of an ellipse measuring 40.7m by 35.1m, but that the site was abandoned after the erection of only three stones (A, B and H). All the prone monoliths lie immediately on the old ground-surface, not on peat, and this confirms that the site had been abandoned before the onset of peat-growth. The excavator considered that the broad band of small stones and rubble between the stones was the result of the clearance of the central area within the circle.

Apart from a number of microliths, a flint arrowhead and several flint flakes, none of which were associated with the constructional period of the site, there were no small finds.

The stones, which are all of Lewisian age (amphibolite, hornblende-schist and granitic-gneiss), are of local origin (Information from Mr G H Collins, Institute of Geological Sciences).

To conform with the pattern adopted within the Inventory, the stones have been lettered A-O, but the order is identical to that used in other accounts of the excavation, where they are numbered I-XV. Their dimensions are as follows:

A 2-0 m high and up to 1.7m by 0.8m in girth, a massive stone aligned E and W.

B 0.5m high and 0.8m by 0.2m, aligned NW and SE; the upper part of the stone appears to have weathered away.

C Prone slab in two pieces: one 1.45m by 0.8m and 0.2m thick, the other 1.3m by 1.0m and up to 0.25m thick.

D Prone slab, 1.15m long by 0.9m broad and 0.1m thick.

E Prone slab, massive and irregular, 2.3m by 1.75m and 0.5m thick.

F Prone massive pillar of stone. 3-1 m long by 0-9 m broad and 0-7m thick.

G Prone slab. 1.8m long by 1.2m broad and 0.4m thick.

H 1.7m high by 0.8 m and 0.4m at the base: an irregular pillar.

I Prone triangular-shaped slab, 2.15m long by 1.55m in maximum breadth and 0.3m thick.

J Prone pillar, 2.25m long by 0.85m broad and 0.5m thick.

K Its N end overlies stone J, 2.35 m long, 1.1 broad and up to 0.45m thick: the butt of the stone is still in its socket.

L Prone pillar, 2.65m long by 0.65m broad and 0.5m thick.

M Massive prone slab, 3.1m long by 1.1m broad and 0.45m thick.

N Prone slab, 1.9m long by 1.1m broad and 0.3m thick.

0 Prone slab, 2.15m long by 1.0m broad and 0.3m thick.

A mound situated immediately N of the circle is a natural hillock, but an upright stone situated to the s of the top of it and set into the old ground-surface below the peat appears to be of prehistoric origin: it is about 1.0m in height and 1.65m in girth. Several fires had been lit on the top of the mound on a level beneath the covering peat, and analysis of charcoal provided a radiocarbon date of 1055bc +/- 130 (GX-4841).

RCAHMS 1984, visited May 1980

*The Commissioners are indebted to Mr Mackie for additional information which is incorporated in to this account.

Measured Survey (1980)

RCAHMS surveyed the stone circle at Cultoon at a scale of 1:100. The plan was redrawn in ink and later published at a reduced scale (RCAHMS 1984 fig. 67).


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