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Colonsay, Kiloran Bay

Burial (Viking), Cross Incised Stone(S) (Viking), Ship Burial (Viking)(Possible), Coin(S) (9th Century), Harness Mount(S) (Viking), Sword (Viking)

Site Name Colonsay, Kiloran Bay

Classification Burial (Viking), Cross Incised Stone(S) (Viking), Ship Burial (Viking)(Possible), Coin(S) (9th Century), Harness Mount(S) (Viking), Sword (Viking)

Canmore ID 38173

Site Number NR49NW 14

NGR NR 4008 9764

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 Colonsay And Oronsay
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NR49NW 14 4008 9764.

(NR 3993 9783) A 9th-10th century Viking boat-burial was discovered at Kiloran Bay in 1882 and excavated in that year and the following by Sir M McNeill and W Galloway.

It appears to have consisted of a boat inverted over an irregularly rectangular stone setting, which enclosed a male burial accompanied by grave goods and a horse. The whole structure was covered by a mound of sand.

Only rivets and clinker-nails remained of the boat, but the stone setting 15' x 10' and set slightly into the sand, was complete and consisted of rough schist slabs, two of which, one at each end, bore crude incised crosses. The human skeleton lay crouched on its left side, with a set of scales (with weights made from enamelled ornaments of Irish origin) lying between the knees and skull, and various weapons and ornaments, etc of iron and bronze lay nearby. They included bronze mountings probably for horse harness.

After the excavation three Anglo-Saxon stycas of the mid-9th century were found within the enclosure and may provide an approximate date for the deposition although Schetelig preferred an early 10th century date. The scale-weights and the cross-marked stones may represent Irish Christian influence.

The finds were presented to the Royal Scottish Museum, but are now on loan to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS Accession nos: L.1924.1-27; L.1966.18-26).

J Anderson 1907; S Greig 1940; S Grieve 1923; Information from W Galloway's Notes.


Field Visit (11 April 1974)

According to local information the burial was found in the area centred NR 4008 9764. Nothing now remains.

Visited by OS (DWR) 11 April 1974; Information from Mrs MacDougall, Uragaig.

Field Visit (June 1981)

NR c. 400 976. A burial was discovered in 1882 in sand-dunes about 1km NE of Colonsay House. Excavations (Soc. Antiq. Scot. MS 175 (c); Anderson 1907, 443-9) then and in the following year revealed a rectangular enclosure measuring 4.6m (15ft) by 3.1m (10ft) over all and constructed of stone slabs set on edge and running E and W; one slab at the E end and one at the W were marked with roughly incised lines in the form of a cross. In the SW corner of the enclosure was the crouched burial of a man accompanied by an iron sword, a spearhead, an axehead, a shield-boss, fragments of an iron pot, a silver pin, four bronze studs and a balance with seven decorated weights (NMAS IL 759-797). On the N side of the enclosure there were the remains of an elaborate horse harness decorated with bronze mounts, while at the E end, about 2.1m (7 ft.) from the crouched burial, were what are described on the plan as human remains; this possible second burial, however, is not mentioned in either of the surviving reports. Outside the enclosure on the E lay the skeleton of a horse accompanied only by an iron girth-buckle.

Some time after the end of the excavations three Northumbrian copper stycas were found in the enclosure on the surface of the loose sand. The two that can be identified were issued under Eanred 1 (808-841) and Wigmund, Archbishop of York (831-854); they have been pierced for suspension and cannot be regarded as current coin. In the sand within the area of the enclosure there were a considerable number of boat-rivets and clench nails which suggest the presence of a boat; this may have formed a roof for the stone enclosure.

RCAHMS 1984, visited June 1981

Reference (2001)

Excavation in the sand-dunes in 1882 revealed two slabs incised with linear crosses in the rectangular kerb surrounding a richly-appointed Viking burial, probably of the late 9th century. (NMS X.L 1924.33-4).

I Fisher 2001.


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