Ancient Monuments

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Donald's Hillock, cairn

A Scheduled Monument in East Garioch, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.2353 / 57°14'6"N

Longitude: -2.2666 / 2°15'59"W

OS Eastings: 384006

OS Northings: 816090

OS Grid: NJ840160

Mapcode National: GBR XF.ZXD1

Mapcode Global: WH9Q8.4DYQ

Entry Name: Donald's Hillock, cairn

Scheduled Date: 24 September 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12346

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Fintray

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: East Garioch

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument comprises a burial monument of probable Bronze-Age date. It survives as a substantial, circular earthen mound that is largely surrounded by a modern drystone retaining wall. The monument is located on the N flood plain of the River Don at around 55m above sea level.

The monument measures approximately 17m in diameter and rises to 2m high. It has a relatively flat top and centre and its profile has been modified to a more angular, vertical form by the retaining wall, which is six or seven course high. Early map evidence suggests that the original mound may be as much as 25m across, and there are slight visible traces in the surrounding cultivated field that the mound does still survive here. A First World War memorial (a carved granite obelisk) has been built on the top of the mound; it is accessed from the north-west by an access gate, steps and a gravel path that is slightly cut into the mound.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded from this scheduling to allow for their maintenance are the above-ground elements of the war memorial, the retaining wall where it stands proud of the mound, the iron access gate and the utility supply marker.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

This monument survives with a substantial proportion of its structure intact, despite the partial truncation of its outer edge by cultivation and a modern stone dyke. It is likely to contain one or more burials and will overlie a prehistoric land surface that may contain environmental evidence. It therefore has the potential to tell us more about the architecture of large prehistoric burial monuments, the practice of burial and how the dead were commemorated, as well as aspects of the local environment when the cairn was constructed. Where more than one burial is present, the evidence can help us understand how such monuments developed through time.

Contextual characteristics

The monument reflects a widespread tradition of prehistoric burial across Scotland in which places of burial are marked with earthen and stone mounds. It is one of the larger examples of its class and one of a local group of broadly similar monuments along Strathdon, reflecting the area's extensive exploitation by prehistoric communities. Its relative survival on the fertile river terrace is impressive as agricultural improvements and modern agriculture methods often obliterate features such as this, and its size perhaps suggests a greater significance for the person or people that were buried here. It does not have the same extensive landscape views of similar monuments that survive in the uplands, however, its position close to a water course with views up and downstream and towards Blue Hill and Tyrebagger Hill suggest that these were significant considerations in its siting. The immediate area has a wide range of surviving domestic, agricultural, burial and ceremonial monuments such as hut circles, possible field systems, burial cairns, barrows, standing stones and stone circles. The monument can therefore help us understand more about the nature of burial and its place in the prehistoric society here, as well as the significance of these monuments and their deliberate positioning among living communities.

Associative characteristics

It is unclear where the site name 'Donald's Hillock' derives from. The 20th-century addition of a parish war memorial reflects a continuing, adaptive reuse for this prominent landmark.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, in particular prehistoric burial architecture and the placing of large monuments commemorating the dead in relation to contemporary Bronze-Age society. The loss of the monument will impede our ability to understand the nature of prehistoric activity in this part of Scotland, as well as the value placed on such monuments by later communities.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NJ81NW 99. Aberdeenshire SMR records the monument as NJ81NW0129.



Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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