Ancient Monuments

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Black Cairn, cairn 990m north west of Tocherford

A Scheduled Monument in West Garioch, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.3918 / 57°23'30"N

Longitude: -2.5203 / 2°31'12"W

OS Eastings: 368826

OS Northings: 833607

OS Grid: NJ688336

Mapcode National: GBR N945.VHW

Mapcode Global: WH8N7.8G4Q

Entry Name: Black Cairn, cairn 990m NW of Tocherford

Scheduled Date: 19 December 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12172

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncertain)

Location: Rayne

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: West Garioch

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument comprises a burial cairn dating to the Bronze Age. It survives as a mound and surrounding circular ditch with several stones exposed where they are not covered by rough grass or gorse. These types of cairns were built and used as individual or group burial monuments and generally contained one or more central burials. It is located on a gentle, N-facing slope at 240m above sea level and below the low summit of Hill of Rothmaise. It has extensive views southwards towards the River Don and the hill range called Bennachie, westwards towards the hills at Foudland and eastwards over the low-lying Strathdon floodplain.

The cairn is roughly circular in shape, 23m in diameter and approximately 2m high from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the mound. Several gaps and sunken areas are visible where the cairn has been quarried for stone material. The most obvious of these is in the centre of the cairn, where burials are usually found. The ditch that surrounds the cairn is best seen on the N side and is approximately 0.5m deep.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, centred on the centre of the cairn, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to its construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is well preserved and retains much of its key structural detail, including a large turf-covered stone mound and surrounding ditch. It is possible that a burial or burials survive underneath the structure of the cairn, despite the intrusion of later isolated quarrying activity. The cairn is likely to seal a buried land surface and this could provide evidence of the environment during the Bronze Age when the monument was built and used. Overall, it has the potential to further our understanding of Bronze-Age funerary practice, as well as inform our knowledge of the structural features of this type of cairn.

Contextual characteristics

This monument belongs to a diverse group of over 150 surviving Bronze-Age burial cairns in the Strathdon area. It is part of a much larger contemporary burial tradition that covers much of Scotland. Monuments like this across Strathdon share aspects of the same construction style, use and relative position in the landscape. Black Cairn is a significant example because of the ditch that surrounds it. Like other examples it has an important position in the landscape that ensures views to and from it, including a clear view of the dominant Bennachie hill range. Spatial analysis of this and similar burial monuments can further our understanding of funerary site location, the structure of society, and the Bronze-Age economy.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to an understanding of the past, in particular Bronze-Age burial architecture and practice. It is part of the evidence for the wider prehistoric settlement of Strathdon and can tell us much about how the people who lived here during the Bronze Age dealt with and commemorated their dead. The preservation of a buried land surface beneath the cairn can help us understand more about the surrounding environment when the cairn was built and used. The loss of the monument would affect our future ability to appreciate and understand the prehistoric landscape and its inhabitants.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NJ63SE 8. It is recorded in the Aberdeenshire Council SMR as NJ63SE0005.


RCAHMS 2007, IN THE SHADOW OF BENNACHIE: THE FIELD ARCHAEOLOGY OF DONSIDE, ABERDEENSHIRE, Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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