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Islay, Ballinaby

Burial(S) (Viking)

Site Name Islay, Ballinaby

Classification Burial(S) (Viking)

Canmore ID 37407

Site Number NR26NW 4

NGR NR 2181 6717

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

NR26NW 4.00 2181 6717

See also NR26NW 22.

NR26NW 4.01 NR c.218 671 Viking burial (Ballinaby 2)

NR26NW 4.02 NR c.2181 6717 Viking burial (Ballinaby 1)

NR26NW 4.03 NR 214 671 Viking burial (Ballinaby 3)

(NR 2181 6717) Human Remains found AD 1877 (NAT)

OS 6" map, Argyllshire, 2nd ed., (1900)

Two 10th century Viking burials, a man and a woman, found lying side by side at a depth of 15ins by W Campbell of Ballinaby in August 1877, his attention having been drawn to the site by the appearance of rust stains on the sandy surface of the links. The graves were outlined by edge-set stones and the grave-goods consisted of iron tools and weapons for the man, and domestic implements and ornaments, including a pair of tortoise brooches and large ornamented bronze or silver mountings, for the woman. The finds are in the National Museum of Antiquties of Scotland (NMAS, Accession no. IL 125-156).

Another Viking grave, in the form of a cist, 7ft long by 2ft 6ins broad by 1ft 9ins deep, was found by Neill MacLellan, a shepherd, 400 yards to the west on the 21st June 1932. It contained weapons which date the burial to 950 to 1000. These are also the NMAS. It was on a natural shelf near the top of a rocky knoll now covered with sand and overgrown with grass.

A pair of tortoise brooches, found beneath one of the standing stones (?NR26NW 13 or 14), were presented to the NMAS by Col. Campbell of Ballinaby in May 1788. (Accession no. IL 215, 216).

About 1800 Captain Burgess of the sloop of war 'Savage' with a party of his crew, dug up part of the sand-hill near NR26NW 13 "where they found one or two swords, a pike-head and many human bones. The arms they carried away" (NSA 1845). In July 1958 a possible Viking shield boss was found in rocks near the farm of Ballinaby but careful investigation revealed nothing else (Lewin and Celoria 1958)

These various reports of burials and finds would appear to suggest a 10th century Viking cemetery roughly centred on the published site at NR 2181 6717.

New Statistical Account (NSA) 1845; Name Book 1878; Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1878; J Anderson 1879; NMAS 1892; A J H Edwards 1934; S Greig 1940; P Lerwin and F Celoria 1958; F Celoria 1959.

The published OS siting falls in undulating pastureland and a perambulation of the surrounding area failed to reveal any evidence of burials nor is there local knowledge (information from Mr Don, Ballinaby Farm, Gruinart) of the site.

Visited by OS (T R G) 24 May 1978.

At least four burials of Viking date have been discovered in sand-dunes near Ballinby, and there are indications that one or possibly two other finds were made there in the later 18th or early 19th century.

RCAHMS 1984, visited June 1980.


Field Visit (June 1980)

At least four burials of Viking date have been discovered in sand-dunes near Ballinby, and there are indications that one or possibly two other finds were made there in the later 18th or early 19th century.

(1) [NR26NW 4.2] Two oval 'tortoise' brooches are said to have been found 'under a large standing stone' at Ballinby (NR c.21 67). The standing stone was probably one of those described under NR26NW 13 or NR26NW 14. The brooches were presented to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in May 1788 (Archaeologica Scotica 3 (1831), Appendix, 68; PSAS 14 (1879-80), 71; NMAS IL 215-6).

(2) [NR26NW 4.1] In 1877 erosion of the sand-dunes about 400m W of Ballinaby (NR c.218 671) revealed two burials accompanied by rich grave-goods. Two skeletons lay a short distance apart with their heads to the E, at a depth of 0.4m, in an enclosure formed of stones set on edge, possibly resembling that at Kiloran Bay, Colonsay (RCAHMS 1984). One was accompanied by a sword and scabbard, a shield-boss and grip, an iron spearhead, a ferrule containing the remains of a wooden shaft, two axes, an adze, a hammer and tongs for smithing, as well as fragments of a cauldron and what may have been the terminal of a drinking-horn.

The other burial was accompanied by a silver pin with a filigree decorated head, a chain of silver wire, two oval brooches, a bronze ladle, bronze mounts decorated with repousse ornament, a mount with a curved edge, a bronze needle-case containing a needle, a glass linen-smoother and beads. Some teeth from an iron heckle were originally thought to be part of the helmet and are recorded as associated with the male grave (Name Book, No. 33, p.105; PSAS 12 (1877-78), 600; 14 (1879-80), 51-69; NMAS IL 125-56).

(3) [NR26NW 4.03] In 1932 a large cist aligned with its long axis ENE and WSW was discovered about 360m W of NR26NW 4.01 on a natural rock shelf near the top of a knoll covered with drifting sand (NR c.214 671). At the time of its discovery the structure consisted of twelve large slabs, four of which were set on edge to form each side, and four cover slabs. There were no end-slabs in position, but several suitable stones are recorded as lying nearby. The cist measured about 2.1m in length, 0.5m in depth and between 0.6m and 0.8m in width internally; it contained a skeleton in an extended position with the head at the WSW end. The burial was accompanied by a iron axe, sword, shield-boss, fragments of an iron sickle or knife, a bronze buckle and ringed pin (PSAS 68 (1933-4), 74-8; NMAS IL 379-84).

(4) The NSA may describe the discovery of one or more Viking burials, when it refers to the excavation of 'one or two swords a pike-head and many human bones' from a sand-hill near the largest standing stone at Ballinaby (NR c. 220 671) by Captain Burgess of the Savage and is crew. The Savage visited Islay on several occasions between July 1788 and July 1789 (PRO, London, Adm/51, 835, Pt. iii).

(5) [NR26NW 22] A sword of Viking type from Islay, which is illustrated by Pennant, who visited Ballinaby in 1772, may have come from a burial there (NR c. 21 67) (Pennant, Tour, 1772, 1, pl. xliv).

RCAHMS 1984, visited June 1980.

Watching Brief (3 December 2013)

NR 22472 67296, NR 22528 67289, NR 22595 67278, NR 22660 67276 and NR 22725 67264 Watching briefs were kept on 3 December 2013 during excavations for five poles for an overhead power supply to a new house at Ballinaby. The new power line is located near two standing stones (NR26NW 13 and NR26NW 14) and three Viking burials (NR26NW 4) but

nothing of arChaeological significance was found in any of the pole trenches.

Archive and report: RCAHMS and WoSAS HER

Funder: SSE

John Lewis - Scotia Archaeology

(Source: DES)


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