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Strathseasgaich, chambered cairn 655m WSW of

A Scheduled Monument in North, West and Central Sutherland, Highland

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Latitude: 58.0489 / 58°2'56"N

Longitude: -4.8817 / 4°52'54"W

OS Eastings: 230022

OS Northings: 910278

OS Grid: NC300102

Mapcode National: GBR G7BG.0ND

Mapcode Global: WH28Z.ZYJH

Entry Name: Strathseasgaich, chambered cairn 655m WSW of

Scheduled Date: 23 December 1977

Last Amended: 23 November 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4044

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn

Location: Kincardine (Highland)

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: North, West and Central Sutherland

Traditional County: Ross-shire


The monument is the remains of a chambered cairn dating from the Neolithic period, probably built and in use between 4000 BC and 2500 BC. It is visible as earth fast exposed large stones within a low, stony mound measuring around 10m southeast-northwest and 10.7m transversely. Much of the cairn material has been removed exposing the structure of the entrance passage and chambers. The monument is located on a gently sloping, slight ridge at around 200m above sea level.                                                                                 

The overall extent of the overlying cairn, much of which has been removed, is shown by surviving kerb stones. The position of the entrance passage in the southeast quadrant is indicated by a depression in the remains and large orthostats (upright stones) and a fallen lintel visible within the body of the cairn. The entrance passage leads to a central chamber which has two possible side chambers, or sections of internal walling, with this central area measuring 4.6m by 3.7m. The chambers are evidenced by large orthostats that form the sidewalls.

The scheduled area is circular, centred on the cairn, with a diameter of 31m. It includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is a chambered cairn which survives as a stone-built mound with structural orthostats exposed. Although much of the overlying cairn material has been removed, the plan and internal structure of the cairn can still be understood. The cairn has a southeast facing entrance passage and a central chamber with, either, two side chambers off or sections of internal walling. The edge of the cairn is marked by some remaining kerb stones, providing a well-defined perimeter.

The cairn is interpreted as an Orkney-Cromarty type which is an extensive group of cairns generally characterised by a single long chamber divided into stall-like "compartments" by stone uprights. In this example, there is evidence for side chambers or possible internal walling, forming stalls and the monument is broadly aligned northwest to southeast, with the entrance passage facing to the southeast. This corresponds with numerous other examples of Orkney-Cromarty chambered cairns studied by Henshall and Ritchie (1995) where there appears to be an overall preference for the entrance to face between the east and the south.

There is good potential for the survival of archaeological deposits, including human burials, artefacts and environmental remains such as pollen and charcoal, within, beneath and around the upstanding structure of the cairn. The archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the date of the monument, ritual and funerary practices, and the structure of Neolithic society. Any artefacts and environmental material would enhance understanding of contemporary economy, land-use and environment.

Dating evidence from chambered cairns elsewhere demonstrates that they were constructed and in use between around 4000 BC and 2500 BC. They were used for communal burial and ritual, and excavations often reveal evidence of complex development sequences. Therefore the cairn may have been in use for a long period of time. Scientific study of the cairn's form and construction techniques compared with other chambered cairns would enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site and of chambered cairns in general.

Contextual Characteristics

Chambered cairns are found throughout Scotland, with a concentration in the north and west. The example at Strathseasgaich is important as example of an Orkney-Cromarty cairn with exposed internal structural arrangements. Most examples of Orkney-Cromarty this cairns are found in the Orkney, Caithness and Cromarty areas in the north and northeast of Scotland.

This cairn is part of a wider group of chambered cairns in Glen Oykel all within around 1.15km to 1.25km of Strathseasgaich. This group includes Aultivullin, cairn 650m SE of (SM4054; Canmore ID 4607), Cnoc Chaornaidh, cairn 930m NW of (SM4042; Canmore ID 4724) and Loch Ailsh, chambered cairn 900m SE of Strathseasgaich (SM4043; Canmore ID 4735). The proximity of these burial monuments can give important insights into the Neolithic landscape and add to our understanding of social organisation, land division and land-use. The monument therefore has the potential to enhance our understanding of the nature and development of Neolithic monumentality and burial, the nature of belief systems, ceremonial and burial practices.

Chambered cairns are found in a variety of locations. Some are placed in conspicuous locations within the landscape, such as on the summits of hills or on the shoulders of hills, perhaps to be seen on a skyline or otherwise in profile. Others are found in less conspicuous locations, for example on valley floors. Relationships to routeways and/or other ritual sites, locations near to good upland pasture and views over specific areas of land may also have had significance. The chambered cairn at Strathseasgaich is positioned on a slight ridge on a gentle slope. It occupies a hillside position and is has extensive views to the east.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this site's national importance.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the design and construction of burial monuments, the nature of burial and ritual practices and their significance in Neolithic society. Although much of the overlying cairn material has been removed, this chambered cairn retains significant field characteristics including much of its internal structure. It is also part of a wider group of chambered cairns in this area and can be compared with these other examples. As such it can significantly enhance our understanding of Neolithic society and economy, as well as the nature of belief systems, burial and ceremonial practices. It would have been an important component of the wider prehistoric landscape of settlement, agriculture and ritual and would have been a prominent part of the prehistoric landscape. Chambered cairns are one of our main sources of information for the Neolithic in Scotland and so are an important element in our understanding of the nature of Scotland's prehistoric society and landscape. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the meaning and importance of death and burial, and the placing of cairns within the landscape in the Neolithic period in northern Scotland and further afield.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 4750 (accessed on 12/09/2018).

Highland Historic Environment Record Reference: MHG7384 (accessed on 12/09/2018).

Henshall, A S. (1972). The chambered tombs of Scotland, vol. 2. Edinburgh. p. 570.

Henshall, A.S. and Ritchie, J.N.G., 1995, The Chambered Cairns of Sutherland: An Inventory of their Structures and their Contents, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh

Mercer, R J. (1980). Archaeological field survey in northern Scotland, 1976-1979, University of Edinburgh, Department of Archaeology, Occasional Paper No. 4. Edinburgh. p. 154.


HER/SMR Reference

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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