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Upper Largie

Cairn (Period Unassigned)(Possible), Cist(S) (Bronze Age), Cremation(S) (Period Unassigned), Inhumation (Period Unassigned), Pit(S) (Period Unassigned), Pit Defined Avenue (Prehistoric), Pit Defined Cursus (Neolithic), Timber Circle(S) (Bronze Age), Cinerary Urn (Bronze Age), Knife (Flint)(Bronze Age)

Site Name Upper Largie

Classification Cairn (Period Unassigned)(Possible), Cist(S) (Bronze Age), Cremation(S) (Period Unassigned), Inhumation (Period Unassigned), Pit(S) (Period Unassigned), Pit Defined Avenue (Prehistoric), Pit Defined Cursus (Neolithic), Timber Circle(S) (Bronze Age), Cinerary Urn (Bronze Age), Knife (Flint)(Bronze Age)

Alternative Name(s) Corlarach

Canmore ID 39486

Site Number NR89NW 43

NGR NR 8319 9933

NGR Description NR 8319 9933 and NR 8319 9921

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 Kilmartin
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NR89NW 43 8319 9933 and 8319 9921.

(NR 8319 9933) Cist (NAT)

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

This cist, believed excavated from an ancient cairn measures 3'9" x 2'4" - 2', axis NE. Its cover is 6'6" x 5'2" x 8". A possible cup mark on the upper surface of cover, noted by Craw (1930) is not now visible.

J H Craw 1930; M Campbell and M Sandeman 1964; Name Book nd.

As described. There is now no evidence of a cairn.

Visited by OS (IA) 1 May 1973.

The cist, generally as described, is embedded in a mound of stones 5.0m N-S by 4.6m and 0.5m high, which is possibly the remains of a cairn. Cist surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (TRG) 11 February 1977.

Gradual expansion of a sand and gravel quarry in the vicinity of a scheduled cist prompted a series of three excavations.

December 1982 (G J Barclay) Large scale trial trenching to test anomalies located by a magnetometer survey showed that they were natural. A cist was found c.10m NE of the scheduled cist. It was

c.1.00m long, c.0.50m wide and c.0.50m deep internally. The capstone was flush with the present topsoil and rested on the four side slabs forming the cist. The base was a large oval flat stone, the gaps between it and the sides filled by cobbling. No finds were recovered; the cist may have been disturbed.

April 1983 (J S Rideout) With the granting of Scheduled Monument Consent to the Landowner, the scheduled cist was investigated and proved to have been disturbed; the capstone had been replaced. The side slabs rested

on the undisturbed natural gravel and the top of the cist lay well above ground level. It may be that it had originally been covered by a cairn. The mound of stones surrounding the cist before excavation proved to be of recent date as did the fill of the cist, which measures c1.25m long, c.0.70m wide and c.0.70m high. As one of the conditions of Scheduled Monument Consent the cist was rebuilt at NR 8319 9921. About 60m S of the cist the remains of an inurned cremation were discovered by Dr J N G Ritchie. Only the base of the urn survived; the cremation contained a small burnt plano-convex knife. A small cist was found c.2m of the cremation. The capstone had been displaced by topsoil stripping. The cist was c.0.35m long, c.0.25m wide and c.0.40m deep and was filled with a dark soil containing charcoal and burnt bone. It appears to have been deliberately backfilled in antiquity.

August 1983 (R J Mercer) Four subsoil features were investigated c.30m W of the scheduled cist. A much damaged cist, c.0.90m wide, had apparently been emptied in the past. Only the E and W side slabs survived in good condition. No finds were recovered. A large pit, c.1.15m by c.0.75m, was located c.7m NW of the cist. It contained a dark soil with large quantities of charcoal and some fragments of burnt bone. Burnt stones in the fill and on the pit sides suggest burning in situ. Sherds of urn-type pottery were recovered from the E side of the pit.

About 2.5m NW of this was a sub-circular pit c.1.10m by 0.75m. The fill of the pit produced part of the rim of a flat-rimmed vessel. A fourth feature, a pit com NE of this pit, measures c.0.55m by 0.50m and c. 0.10m. deep. Its function is uncertain.

Sponsor: SDD(AM) - CEU.

G Barclay et al 1983.

In 1993 planning consent was granted to extend the quarry northwards, necessitating excavation of the adjacent area which measured approximately 190m by 70m (Phase I of the quarry extension). The excavation was carried out by Scotia Archaeology Limited working to terms of reference set by the Strathclyde Regional Council archaeologist in the planning consent, the funding being provided by the quarry operator M & K McLeod Ltd.

Two cists were located, 12m apart. One, measuring 0.5m by 0.35m and 0.45m deep internally, appeared to be intact although it may have been disturbed in recent years. At its base was a complete beaker but no other artefacts. The other cist, which measured 0.75m square and 0.35m deep, had been disturbed on at least two occasions and was devoid of artefacts or evidence of burial or cremation.

Further N was a large, sub-circular pit, 6.8m by 6.2m and 1.8m deep. This was filled with redeposited gravel subsoil and overlain by a 0.25m deep accumulation of peat containing numerous fragments of timber. Near its top was a mass of large boulders, presumably used for levelling. A ring of fourteen pits, typically 0.75m diameter, surrounded this crater. One of these pits contained numerous cremated bones.

Two concentric arcs of larger pits (comprising twelve and sixteen pits, up to 2.2m diameter) cut across the line of the ring of pits and extend northwards beyond the area of excavation. Two flint flakes, including a large blade, were recovered from one of these pits. Most of them contained charcoal.

Nearby were two parallel, linear groups of eight and ten pits which also continued beyond the limits of excavation. These pits measured typically 2m in diameter.

located towards the E end of the site were three narrow, curvilinear ditches, or gullys, which may represent boundaries of some sort. Two of them had been truncated by the quarry edge; the third extended beyond the trench edge.

Sponsor: M &K McLeod Limited.

A Radley 1993

NR 832 993 A second season of excavation by Scotia Archaeology Ltd in advance of quarrying on a gravel terrace to the NW of the village of Kilmartin (Radley 1993) revealed a timber circle, measuring 46m in diameter, and numerous other features relating to prehistoric ritual and funerary activities.

The circle survived as 31 post-pits, each 3-5m apart, and was slightly elongated on its N-S axis. On its S side was a ring of small post-holes surrounding a large pit. An avenue of two near-parallel lines of pits led southwards from the SE corner of the main circle. To the E of the latter was a complicated arrangement of features, towards which the avenue appeared to open out. These included an array of intercutting pits, perhaps graves, surrounded by small post-holes; and several linear post-settings, provisionally interpreted as the bases of mortuary platforms.

Three cists have been uncovered, nos 1 and 2 to the S (A Radley 1993) and no 3 to the NW of the timber circle, the latter containing a crouched inhumation from which a well-preserved skull was retrieved. Running along the base of the ridge to the W of the timber circle was a palisade trench.

Features still to be excavated include a large three-sided arrangement of posts, partly contained within the timber circle and extending northwards from it, beyond the limit of excavation. This feature, possibly a cursus-type monument and perhaps associated with the post-ring and pit on the S side of the circle, may represent the earliest activity on the site.

Although a sequence of construction and dating awaits radiocarbon results, it is suggested that the site contains an early Neolithic cursus monument embellished with a timber circle which was given over to funerary activities in the Bronze Age.

Sponsor: M & K MacLeod Ltd.

J Terry 1997

NR 8320 9935 The excavation of a timber circle (DES 1997, 19-21) and a sub-rectangular enclosure first discovered in 1993 (DES 1993, 75) was completed. The Upper Largie Quarry contained a large circle, 47m in diameter, defined by large post-holes, set upon the central ridge of an outwash gravel terrace overlooking the Kilmartin Valley. No dates are yet available, although an early prehistoric date is postulated. The sub-rectangular enclosure was also defined by a series of large pits and measured some 45m wide at its N end. The lateral extent of the enclosure has not been fully revealed and it is probable that the enclosure continues into the field to the N of the quarry. A cist containing an inhumation, fragments of pottery and possible flakes was located on the W edge of the central ridge outside the enclosure.

Sponsor: M & K MacLeod Ltd.

C Ellis 2000


Note (1988)

Several burials and cists have been discovered on the summit of a gravel terrace 400 m NW of Kilmartin village. In 1982 and 1983 (G Barclay et al 1983), in advance of gravel extraction, the Central Excavation Unit, Historic Buildings and Monuments: Scottish Development Department, carried out a magnetometer survey and trial excavation, and further work was undertaken later in 1983 after the discovery of additional features. The present account makes the use of information provided by the excavation teams*. For cupmarks found on the E side of the gravel ridge, see NR89NW 80.

(1) Cist I, situated 750m SSW of Upper Largie,2 was aligned NE and SW and measured 1.25m by 0.7 m and 0.7m in depth internally; it was composed of four large slabs and a massive capstone (1.95m by l.5m and 0.l5m thick). The interior, which contained a disturbed filling of earth and stones, had clearly been rifled in the past. Craw recorded (Craw 1930) that the upper surface of the cover slab bore 'what may be a cupmarking', but it is likely that this is a natural hollow. The cist appears to have protruded above ground level, and although the stones that had accumulated round it in recent times were probably the result of field-clearance, it is likely that it was originally covered by a cairn.4 After excavation the cist was repositioned 120m to the S (NR 8319 9921), where it is now partly covered by a lay-by.

(2) Situated about 10m to the NE, Cist 2 was aligned NW and SE, and measured 0.9m by 0.5m and 0.5m in depth; it was composed of four large slabs with a substantial cover slab and basal slab, but no burial-deposits survived. The cist had been constructed in a pit, and the spaces between the upright slabs and the edge of the pit had been back-filled with stones and earth; the gaps between the basal slab and the side- and end-slabs had been neatly filled with cobbling.

(3) Cist 3 was discovered 75m SSW of Cist 2; aligned NNE and SSW, it measured 0.35m in length by 0.27m to 0.24m in breadth and 0.4m in depth. It had been set in a pit measuring l.5m by 1.3m, which had been back-filled with boulders. There was no capstone, and the cist contained charcoal and burnt bone. A radiocarbon assay of charcoal from the cist yielded a date of 1645 bc ? 70 (GU-1978), suggesting a date in calendar years late in the third millennium BC. Some 2 m to the N there were the remains of a Cinerary Urn containing a cremation and a plano-convex flint knife.

(4) Further features, named Features 1-4 by the excavator, and including what are probably the remains of two cists, were excavated in August 1983, some 30m W of Cist 1.

Feature 1 was a ruined cist aligned NNW and SSE, which had been constructed in an oval pit measuring about 1.25m by 1.15m and 0.35m in depth. The floor of the cist had been covered, except on the w, by a layer of grey clay some 120mm thick, with the E side-slab resting on this layer. There were no finds.

Feature 2 was a shallow pit (1.15m by 0.75m and 0.6m deep), which contained a layer of grey clay on which there was a deposit of dark soil with charcoal and tiny scraps of cremated bone. Sherds of pottery, charcoal and burnt stones were recovered, and it is possible that the burning took place within the pit, after which the upper part of the pit was lined with stones and the rest of the pit subsequently filled with further burnt material and rubble. Charcoal from the fill of this feature furnished two samples for radiocarbon assay; one yielded a date of 1050 bc ? 65 (GU-1976) the other of 1020 bc ? 55 (GU-1977). The degree of agreement and the limited margins of error suggest a date in calendar years between 1300 BC and 1200 BC.

Feature 3 was a pit (1.1m by 0.75m and 0.4m deep) filled with brown soil and only a few stones; there were no finds from within the pit, but the rim of an urn-like vessel was found nearby.

Feature 4 was a small hollow (0.55m by 0.5m and 0.1m deep) with a grey clayey fill and a few flecks of charcoal.


*The Commissioners are indebted to Mr G J Barclay and Mr J Rideout, HBM: SDD, and to Mr R J Mercer, Department of Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, for permission to use material in advance of publication; DES (1983), 22-3; Mercer, R J, 1983, Upper Largie Quarry, interim report.


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