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Islay, Port Charlotte

Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)

Site Name Islay, Port Charlotte

Classification Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)

Canmore ID 37313

Site Number NR25NW 1

NGR NR 24829 57613

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. 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

NR25NW1 2482 5761

(NR 2482 5761) The turf covered remains of a chambered long cairn of the Clyde group lie in flat field almost at the edge of the raised beach. It has been heavily robbed and probably curtailed on the S, the cairn material now lying in uneven low humps 3ft in maximum height. The edges are irregular and indefinite. The remaining length is 70ft and the breadth across the chamber at least 71ft. Excavation in 1976 confirmed the former position of the facade at the NNE end and the fact that the chamber had been of four compartments. In front of the entrance was a deep pit into the edge of which a large sill had been placed. The cairn consisted of an inner core of massive slabs leaning against and in some cases oversailing the side stones of the chamber. This was revetted and partly covered by massive boulders, the whole being capped by a small-pebbled cairn. To the rear of the chamber was a pre-cairn flint scatter.

A S Henshall 1972; S J Pierpoint and P Harrington 1976.

A chambered cairn as described. It has been severely mutilated by excavation and is in a poor state of preservation.

Surveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (BS) 22 May 1978

Excavation at the rear of the chamber showed a rubble built mound of single period construction. Underneath was a "clean" old ground surface with a few flints. An occupation level with circa 2000 flints and charcoal lay below this. Dry stone walling 1-1.5m wide and 0.7m high was exposed on the E and W sides of the cairn; between the walls was packed rubble. A "stepped" edge to the cairn is suggested, and a date of circa 2650 BC from radiocarbon dates.

S J Peirpoint and P Harrington 1978

This chambered cairn is situated in a field at the edge of the raised beach 750m SW of Port Charlotte; the chamber and much of the cairn were excavated between 1976 and 1979, and the following account makes use of the interim report and further information supplied by the excavators (Peirpoint and Harrington 1978). The cairn, which is aligned NNE and SSW, measures 22m in breadth and is now about the same length, but the SSW end has been destroyed, and it would originally have been much longer. The chamber, at the NNE end, is entered from the centre of a concave facade of which only the stump of one stone and a fallen second stone now remain. Immediately in front of the entrance there was a pit, some 0.6m deep, from the bottom of which charcoal provided a radiocarbon date of ad 90+- (HAR-2405), but this may have been a result of contamination. The large slab in front of the entrance has been erected as if to form a portal stone. The sill-stone, only part of which is shown on plan (RCAHMS plan A), is 0.8m long, 0.23m thick and 1.16m high, and was held in position by two jamb-stones; the septal stone is 0.9m long, 0.96m high and 0.15m thick. The second compartment (1.5m long and 1.3m broad) comprises two massive side-slabs up to 0.9m high supported from behind by large slabs, which can be seen protruding through the cairn material. The third compartment has been destroyed, and the fourth is now represented only by the W side-slab. The missing slabs appear to have been removed for use as culvert-covers in the last century, but the slots from which they had been removed were discovered in the course of excavation.

The only human bones discovered were in the second compartment, together with a mass of oak charcoal; radiocarbon dates derived from the charcoal are 2590bc +-70(HAR-2084) and 2760+-70 (HAR-2406). The other small finds from the chamber include three leaf-shaped arrowheads, flint knives and sherds of five Neolithic vessels; a plano-convex flint knife was found within the forecourt. This material is now preserved in the Museum of Islay Life, Port Charlotte.

Excavation showed that beneath the cairn material on each side of the chamber there were double drystone walls, the space between them filled with smaller stones; these walls must have acted as a revetment within the ciarn, and clearly indicate that it was originally trapezoidal on plan.

An earlier occupation-horizon was found beneath the cairn; composed of carbonised hazlenut shells, sheep bones, flint flakes and several scrapers, it yielded three radiocarbon dates: 3070bc +-90 (HAR-3487), 2990bc +_70 (HAR-3486) and 2710bc +-90 (HAR-2386).

RCAHMS 1984, visited May 1980.


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