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Chambered Cairn (Neolithic), Cross Incised Stone (Early Medieval)

Site Name Auchnaha

Classification Chambered Cairn (Neolithic), Cross Incised Stone (Early Medieval)

Canmore ID 40000

Site Number NR98SW 4

NGR NR 9329 8170

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilfinan
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NR98SW 4 9329 8170.

(NR 9329 8170) Cairn (NR)

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

This Clyde-type long chambered cairn is situated in rough grazing on a gently sloping hillside; it is oriented NE-SW, facing uphill. It has been greatly denuded; at the NE end cairn material lies in untidy hummocks 2'-3' high, but about 70' behind the ends of the facade it fades away and though it may once have extended a littel further, the actual SW end is difficult to define. The cairn is about 57' across the NE end, narrowing to about 37' at 70' from the NE end. It was fairly complete until 1794, when it was said to be about 120' long, "of considerable breadth and amazing depth". About 70' behind the apparent SW end is an upright stone 2'10" high, set at an angle to, and slightly N of, the main axis of the cairn.

At the NE end of the cairn there is a concave facade, about 38' across and 9' deep. Probably there have been five closely-set orthostats on each side of the chamber entrance, but two stones are missing and the stone at either end has fallen forward.

There is a transverse stone 1'5" SW of the NE portal stone, making a double portal, but a corresponding stone on the NW side cannot be seen. Two large side stones of the chamber remain in position on each side; its width is 3' to 3'11". At the present end of the chamber there is a transverse stone lying flat; this appears to be a septal stone fallen to the SW. Behind it is another stone, which might be the end stone of the chamber. It leans NE, but its base seems more or less in position. It is 3' wide by 2' high at present. If this is the end stone, the chamber is c. 27' long, in three compartments.

A large capstone, 8' by 6', has been tilted forwards over the entrance, while inside the chamber are several large flat slabs which may be parts of other capstones.

Two slabs set on edge 19'3" behind the main chamber appear to be the remains of a lateral chamber, entered from the SW side of the cairn. The side stone is 6'4" long, leaning NE. The other stone appears to be a septal slab. These stones project 1' and 1'4".

In antiquity, a small cross, 6" x 4", has been incised near the top of the S face of the easternmost standing stone of the facade.

OSA 1795; A S Henshall 1972.


Field Visit (March 1932)

Childe visited this site and the cairn at Carn Ban, Kilfinan in March 1932.

Source: V G Childe 1932

Field Visit (19 September 1942)

This site was included within the RCAHMS Emergency Survey (1942-3), an unpublished rescue project. Site descriptions, organised by county, vary from short notes to lengthy and full descriptions and are available to view online with contemporary sketches and photographs. The original typescripts, manuscripts, notebooks and photographs can also be consulted in the RCAHMS Search Room.

Information from RCAHMS (GFG) 10 December 2014.

Field Visit (2 November 1972)

Generally as described. Probing suggests that the cairn originally measured 43.5m in length and incorporated the stone at the SW end. Resurveyed at 1:10560.

Visited by OS (D W R) 2 November 1972.

Field Visit (November 1982)

Situated in a forestry plantation 300m SE of Auchnaha, there are the remains of what was originally a large and impressive chambered cairn (OSA 1795, 257; Henshall 1972, 327-8). Aligned NE and SW, it now measures 23m by 13.5m, with the main chamber entered at the centre of a deep crescentic forecourt at the NE end. Two slabs of a lateral chamber survive near the SW end of the cairn. Five stones of the facade remain upright, but those at each tip have fallen and others have been removed; the tallest stone, at the S end of the arc, is 1.5m high. Both portal stones have fallen from the line of the facade, but a second, inner portal, 1.4m high and slightly displaced, remains on the SE side.

The chamber, some 5m long by 1.5m broad internally, comprises four massive side-slabs, but nothing can be seen of the transverse slab that would originally have divided the chamber into two compartments, and there is now no trace of the further slabs, visible on the line of the chamber in 1962, that suggested that there may originally have been three compartments. A displaced capstone still spans the chamber at the entrance.

The surviving side-slab and end-slab of the lateral chamber project up to 0.4m above the cain material. Some 24m further to the SW an upright slab set on the axis of the cairn measures 0.85m by 0.4m at the base and 0.9m in height.

The S face of the E standing stone of the facade bears an incised Latin cross (150mm by 110m) at a point about 0.2m from the top (see RCAHMS 1992).

RCAHMS 1988, visited November 1982

Field Visit (June 1986)

A Latin cross is incised on the SE orthostat of the façade of a chambered cairn situated 1.5km from the E shore of Loch Fyne and 300m SE of Auchnaha, at an elevation of 115m OD. It is carved 0.22m below the apex of the S face of the orthostat, which measures 1.5m in visible height by 1.4m width and is of coarse quartzose gneiss. The cross measures 0.18m in height by 0.11m across the transom, which is well defined and has sunken terminals. Whereas the shaft is also firmly incised, the upper arm is weathered and irregular.

The caption of the drawing of the cairn made by Skene in 1834 does not mention the cross, but records that the cairn was known as ‘‘Clachan Tagart’ or the Priests stones’. Similar names were given in the Highlands to boulders used as Roman Catholic meeting-points in the post-Reformation period, but in this case the cross was probably intended to sanctify a site with pagan associations, and it may be of Early Christian origins.

RCAHMS 1992, visited June 1986

Reference (2001)

A Latin cross incised on the SE orthostat of a chambered cairn (RCAHMS 1988) measures 0.18m by 0.11m across the transom, which has sunken terminals.

I Fisher 2001.


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