Ancient Monuments

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Dunside Hill, cairn 1225m south of Byrecleugh

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.8035 / 55°48'12"N

Longitude: -2.5914 / 2°35'29"W

OS Eastings: 363025

OS Northings: 656850

OS Grid: NT630568

Mapcode National: GBR B1BB.RF

Mapcode Global: WH8WY.5D89

Entry Name: Dunside Hill, cairn 1225m S of Byrecleugh

Scheduled Date: 4 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12507

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Longformacus

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Mid Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire

Description

The monument comprises a burial cairn likely to date to the Neolithic or Bronze-Age. It survives as a low grass-and stone-covered mound which is obscured by later clearance and stone dyking. It sits at the SW edge of the summit to Dunside Hill on moorland and rough pasture at 435m above sea level, on the SE edge of the Lammermuir Hills.

The cairn is built on a low, grass-covered, stony platform approximately 12m across. This is probably the remains of its base and a later stell that was visible in the early 1920s. The stone mounding that represents the above-ground structure of the cairn has been disturbed by the intersection of a disused dyke that runs from the south-west to the cairn's centre. Abutting this is a tall, modern marker cairn.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, centred on the monument, 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. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of the modern marker cairn and the abutting dyke in order to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument represents a very interesting example of a prehistoric burial cairn that has subsequently been adapted for reuse. Its footprint appears intact and indicates that archaeological information is likely to survive beneath its surface. The excavation of similar burial monuments in SE Scotland confirms that archaeological deposits can survive the impacts of later land-use and that these monuments often contain rich artefact assemblages that might include cist settings, pottery, flintwork, and skeletal remains. The presence of one or more burials and their associated grave goods beneath the cairn's stone structure is likely and these can help us understand more about the practice and significance of burial and commemorating the dead at specific points in prehistory. There is also likely to be environmental evidence that is preserved in the soil horizons and this can help us build up a picture of the climate, local conditions and land cover when the cairn was built and in use.

Contextual characteristics

The cairn belongs to a numerous and widespread group of prehistoric burial monuments. Researchers have suggested that there is a noticeable diversity in SE Scotland in the practice of burial and design of burial monuments and this cairn represents just one of the many ways in which communities dealt with their dead. Overall, some 400 different burial monuments are known of in the Berwickshire area and this includes single cists, cremations, inhumations, barrows and cairns, such as this example. This monument is one of at least 70 cairns recorded in Berwickshire and part of a local cluster of sites that includes sites on or just below hill summits. The excavation of cairns in SE Scotland has shown that they are often associated with more than one burial episode (up to seven burials in one cairn are known of) and that they can remain significant much later on, during the Iron Age. They can act as simple markers for the individuals buried within them and, in this case, the landscape position of Dunside Hill cairn suggests that inter-visibility with other points in the landscape was also important. The Twin Law cairns 2km to the SSW and the long cairn (Mutiny Stones) 2km to the NNW are clearly visible from this commanding vantage point, as is the view across the Lammermuirs to the north, the North Sea to the east and a rolling upland landscape to the south. This upland example is therefore one that could yield information about the landscape position, wider significance and context of funerary monuments when tracing the prehistoric exploitation of SE Scotland.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the design and construction of burial monuments, the practice of burial rites and their significance and place in prehistoric society. Skeletal remains, grave goods and ecofactual evidence are likely to be preserved in-situ and these can help build up a picture of the circumstance of burial on Dunside Hill. The monument's loss would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape and the position of death and burial in prehistoric life.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the monument as NT65NW 2.

References:

Craw J H 1920, 'Early types of burial in Berwickshire', HIST BERWICKSHIRE NATUR CLUB 24: 2, 191.

Dent J and McDonald R 1997, EARLY SETTLERS IN THE BORDERS, Scottish Borders Council: Kelso.

RCAHMS 1915, SIXTH REPORT AND INVENTORY OF MONUMENTS AND CONSTRUCTIONS IN THE COUNTY OF BERWICK, Edinburgh, HMSO.

RCAHMS 1980, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF BERWICKSHIRE DISTRICT, BORDERS REGION, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland Series, Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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