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Kilmartin Glebe

Burial Cairn (Prehistoric)

Site Name Kilmartin Glebe

Classification Burial Cairn (Prehistoric)

Alternative Name(s) Kilmartin, Glebe Cairn

Canmore ID 39537

Site Number NR89NW 9

NGR NR 83299 98940

NGR Description Centre

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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 ( - 1977)

NR89NW 9 8330 9893

(NR 8331 9896) Cairn (NR)

OS 6" map (1900)

The New Statistical Account notes 'urns' found in cairns in the Kilmartin Valley.

NSA 1845

The Glebe cairn at Kilmartin was excavated by Greenwell in 1864. Heavily robbed on one side, it measured 110' in diameter by 13'6". It covered a central cist of boulders, 7'6" x 3' x 3', which contained an inhumation and a tripartite food vessel - now in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS - Accession no: HPO 8). In the SW section of the cairn, only part opened, was a double ring of boulders, 8' from kerb at nearest; outer ring 37' diameter, inner, 27' diameter, surrounding a cist of slabs, 3'5" x 2'4" x 1'9", containing an Irish Bowl food vessel, buried in gravel with a jet necklace laid above it. The food vessel is in the NMAS (Accession no: HPO 9), but the jet necklace, of 28 beads, was lost in a fire at Poltalloch.

W Greenwell 1868; M Campbell and M Sandeman 1964

NR 8331 9893: Generally as described. This cairn measures up to 34.0m in diameter and 2.0m in height. There is now no cist visible.

Resurveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (IA), 26 April 1973.

Glebe Cairn (name verified) is as described in the report above.

Surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (TRG), 14 February 1977.


Publication Account (1985)

Now a massive pile of stones some 33.5m in diameter and 4m in height, with no other distinguishing features, this cairn is the northernmost of the line on the valley floor. The cairn covered several burial deposits and may have been the result of building and rebuilding over several centuries. One cist contained an inhumation burial with a Food Vessel as well as the beads of a jet necklace. The central cist, which was constructed in a shaft, contained an inhumation burial and another Food Vessel.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Argyll and the Western Isles’, (1985).

Field Visit (April 1986)

Situated on the glebe land of Kilmartin 180m NW of the parish church, there is a large cairn which was 33.5m in diameter and 4.1m high before being reconstructed to its present diameter of 30m and height of 3m. Excavations were carried out in 1864 by Greenwell, and the following account is based on his published report (PSAS 1864-6, 339-441; Campbell and Sandeman 1964, no. 105).

In the SW quadrant of the cairn he found two concentric rings of boulders set about 1.5m apart and measuring 8.2m and 11.3m in diameter respectively, the outer ring lying about 2.4m inside the perimeter of the cairn material and about 4.9m from the centre of the cairn. In each ring individual stones were about 0.9m high and 0.6m broad and were placed at intervals of between 0.9m and 1.6m, except on the NE arc, 'where, in both circles, four stones were found placed together', and nearby the space between two upright stones had been filled by 'a wall of smaller stones placed flat'. At the centre of this circular setting there was a cist composed of four slabs and a capstone; aligned NE and SW and measuring about 1m by 0.7m and 0.5m in depth, the cist was half filled with river gravel and contained a Food Vessel 'covered by the gravel' with a jet necklace placed above it. The vessel and necklace had probably accompanied an inhumation, of which no trace remained. The necklace, which comprised two spacer-plates, three cylindrical beads and twenty-three disc-beads has not survived (the necklace was lost in a fire at Poltalloch House), but the Food Vessel is in the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.

At the centre of the cairn there was a cist, which is described as 'a hollow sunk into the surface of the ground, and lined with rounded boulders, and having a large slab of schist . . . for its cover'. The cist was aligned NE and SW and measured 2.3m by 0.9m and 0.9m in depth; the cover slab measured 2.7m by 1.4m. At the SW end, about 0.3m above the floor, there was a flat slab on which there was a quantity of black unctuous matter', and about 0.3 m from the slab, and some 0.2m above it, there was a Food Vessel in fragments. At the NE end there was a similar slab with a comparable deposit both above and below it. The cist had subsequently been filled with gravel to within 0.3m of the underside of the cover slab. The Food Vessel is preserved in the British Museum, London.

Greenwell records that the N and E sides of the cairn were not examined, but from the available evidence it is likely that two periods of construction can be distinguished, the earlier represented by the boulder rings and the slab-built cist, and the later by the boulder-built cist and the enlarged cairn.

RCAHMS 1988, visited April 1986.

Note (4 June 2020)

The location, classification and period of this site have been reviewed.


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