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Cairn (Bronze Age), Carved Stone (Prehistoric), Cist(S) (Bronze Age), Food Vessel Urn(S) (Bronze Age)

Site Name Dunchraigaig

Classification Cairn (Bronze Age), Carved Stone (Prehistoric), Cist(S) (Bronze Age), Food Vessel Urn(S) (Bronze Age)

Canmore ID 39455

Site Number NR89NW 15

NGR NR 8330 9680

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilmichael Glassary
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes ( - 1977)

NR89NW 15 8330 9680.

(NR 8331 9681) Cairn (NR)

OS 6" map (1924)

This cairn was excavated by Mapleton and Greenwell in 1864. It measures 100' in diameter and at S a slab 14' x 8'4" x 1'3" resting on boulder walls to form a cist, 7'6" x 3'2" x 3'6", which contained several deposits of burnt bones, separated from each other by small rough fragments of stone - the deposits of perhaps 8 or 10 bodies. As this cist is so similar to that in the Glebe cairn (NR89NW 5) it must be supposed that at first it was constructed for an inhumation. Though now on the S side of the cairn, a great deal of the cairn on that side has been removed, so very probably this cist which cannot satisfactorily be classified as a chamber (A S Henshall 1972) was the primary burial.

A second cist, in the present centre of the cairn, stood a few feet from the ground. It measured 4'6" x 2'6" x 2'6", and contained a bowl food vessel, now in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS - Accession no: HPO 12), burnt bone, charcoal and flint chips. A rough pavement seemed to form the bottom of the cist, but on removing it, the remains of an inhumation, buried in clay, were found. (The account of finding a body on the cover stone of this cist would appear erroneous.)

A third cist was found near the outside of the cairn 22' E of the boulder cist. It measured 1'6" x 1'3" x 1'3", and contained a bowl food vessel (also in the NMAS - HPO 11) burnt bones and flint chips. This cist is now hidden.

Among the stones of the cairn, a whetstone, flint knife, pottery fragments, and a greenstone axe 6" x 3", were found. These are now lost. R J Mapleton 1870; W Greenwell 1868; M Campbell and M Sandeman 1964

A round cairn generally as described.

Resurveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (IA) 3 April 1973

Dunchraigaig Cairn (DoE nameplate) is 30.0m in diameter and 2.5m high at the centre, and heavily rubbed in the S and E. The two cists are as described in the previous information. The third cist - found near the outside of the cairn on the east - was not evident. On the north extremity of the cairn, several earthfast boulders protruding through the turf may be the remains of a kerb.

Surveyed at 1/10,000.

Visited by OS (TRG) 1 April 1977


Field Visit (June 1981)

On a slight tree-covered terrace 280m NW of Dunchraigaig, there is a cairn of water-worn boulders measuring about 30 m in diameter and up to 2.5m in height (Campbell and Sandeman 1964, no. 95). Three stones, which probably form part of the kerb, are visible on the N, but ploughing and stone-robbing have obscured its original outline.

Excavations by Greenwell in 1864, following those of Mapleton, revealed a cist within the cairn material, slightly to the N of the centre (Greenwell 1868; Mapleton 1870). Aligned ENE and WSW and measuring 1.4m by 0.8m internally and 0.8m in depth, the cist is now constructed of five slabs, one of which is cracked, although Greenwell mentions only four. On the cover slab, which measures 1.9 m in length and 0.23m in thickness and is now partly concealed by cairn material, there was, according to Greenwell's account, an extended burial. The cist contained a Food Vessel, cremated bone and charcoal, some flint chippings, as well as a mixture of sand, gravel and clay; beneath an apparent floor of rough paving, the excavators uncovered a crouched burial with the head at the NE end of the cist. A second cist, which is not now visible, lay about 6.5m to the E with its long axis NE and SW; it measured about 0.46m by 0.38m and 0.38m in depth and was partly filled with gravel. On the surface of the gravel there was a Food Vessel, and cremated bone and flint chippings were found among the gravel. A third cist, which Greenwell thought to have contained the primary burial, lies in the SE quadrant of the cairn. Its floor was hollowed into the old ground surface and the sides are formed by roughly built drystone walls; part of the SE side has been removed. Aligned NE and SW and covered by a massive slab (3.8m long and 0.35m thick, and partly hidden by cairn material), the cist measures 2.6m by 1.3m and 1m in depth; it contained burnt and unburnt bone from eight to ten individuals with the deposits roughly separated by fragments of stone. A whetstone, a greenstone axe, a flint knife and some fragments of pottery were found among the cairn material. Traces of an excavation trench across the E half of the cairn may still be seen. The two Food Vessels are preserved in the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, but the other finds have not survived.

Visited June 1981


Measured Survey (June 1981)

RCAHMS surveyed Dunchraigaig cairn in June 1981 with plane-table and alidade producing a plan at a scale of 1:100. The plan of the cairn was redrawn in ink and published at a scale of 1:250 (RCAHMS 1988a, 60).

Field Visit (November 2020)

NR 83310 96803 (Canmore ID : 39455) Rock art panel discovered in September 2012 and recorded using photogrammetry in October 2015, photogrammetry reprocessed in November 2020.

The cist on the SE side of the cairn is covered by a 3.8m long capstone. On the underside of the capstone at the SW end is a rock art panel depicting up to five animals. A well executed, pecked, motif of a stag with a large set of antlers, a well defined head, body and legs. A further stag facing the opposite direction is identified from a set of antlers and some legs. Three further animals with legs and backs do not have heads or antlers.

The cist was excavated W. Greenwell in 1864 who found cremated remains at the W end which corresponds to the position of the rock art within the cist.

Hamish Fenton

(Source: DES Vol 21)


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