Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Two round cairns, 220m south west of Pittland Hills

A Scheduled Monument in Birtley, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.1072 / 55°6'26"N

Longitude: -2.1802 / 2°10'48"W

OS Eastings: 388597.543668

OS Northings: 579218.684255

OS Grid: NY885792

Mapcode National: GBR F96D.S0

Mapcode Global: WHB1K.HW0L

Entry Name: Two round cairns, 220m south west of Pittland Hills

Scheduled Date: 29 April 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014049

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25166

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Birtley

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Birtley St Giles

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of two round cairns of Bronze Age date
situated on the level top of a limestone ridge. The cairns are visible as the
disturbed remains of mounds composed of stone and earth, the most northerly of
the two being 12m in diameter and standing to a maximum height of 0.8m. The
second, more southerly cairn is 8m in diameter and stands to a maximum height
of 0.5m. The two cairns were excavated in 1885 by G R Hall when several cists
or stone coffins were uncovered within the northern cairn which also contained
Bronze Age pottery vessels holding the cremated remains of an adult and a
child. The stones which made up the cists, and several other large stones
which formed a kerb around the outside of the mound, were found to have a
total of 17 cup markings on their surfaces, a form of prehistoric decoration
where small circular depressions are pecked out of the stone. These cup marked
stones were removed from the cairn during the excavation and cannot now be
traced. The smaller cairn contained a stone cist and a pottery vessel
containing a cremation as well as a small pottery cup.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age
(c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as stone mounds covering single or
multiple burials. These burials may be placed within the mound in stone-lined
compartments called cists. In some cases the cairn was surrounded by a ditch.
Often occupying prominent locations, cairns are a major visual element in the
modern landscape. They are a relatively common feature of the uplands and are
the stone equivalent of the earthen round barrows of the lowlands. Their
considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provide
important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation
amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of
their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered
worthy of protection.

Despite some damage from antiquarian excavation the two round cairns near
Pittland Hills retain significant archaeological deposits. Evidence of the
manner of construction and the nature and duration of their use will be
preserved within and beneath the cairns. The incorporation of cup marked
stones into the cairns is unusual.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Beckensall, S, Northumberland's Prehistoric Rock Carvings: A Mystery Explained , (1983), 53, 223
Gibson, A M, Bronze Age Pottery in the North East of England, (1978), 57-8
Gibson, A M, Bronze Age Pottery in the North East of England, (1978), 57-8
Hall, G R, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 2 ser 12' in Archaeologia Aeliana 2 ser 12, (1887), 248-61
Hall, G R, 'Archaeologia Aeliana 2 ser 12' in Archaeologia Aeliana 2 ser 12, (1887), 248-61
NY 87 NE 22,

Source: Historic England

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