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Cursus and barrows, 240m north east of Bullionfield

A Scheduled Monument in Lochee, Dundee City

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Latitude: 56.4655 / 56°27'55"N

Longitude: -3.0716 / 3°4'17"W

OS Eastings: 334067

OS Northings: 730883

OS Grid: NO340308

Mapcode National: GBR VH.6QF9

Mapcode Global: WH6Q4.SRHC

Entry Name: Cursus and barrows, 240m NE of Bullionfield

Scheduled Date: 17 December 1996

Last Amended: 6 July 2021

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM6560

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cursus/bank barrow

Location: Longforgan

County: Dundee City

Electoral Ward: Lochee

Traditional County: Perthshire


The monument comprises the remains of a Neolithic (3800BC-2500BC) cursus and a barrow cemetery dating from the Bronze Age (2500BC-800BC), possibly the Iron Age (800BC-500AD) and up to the Early Medieval period (500AD-1100AD) represented by cropmarks visible on oblique aerial photographs. The monument lies on fairly level arable farmland at around 20m above sea level.  

The cursus, an elongated ritual enclosure of Neolithic date, is defined by a series of pits and is located at the eastern side of the monument. It measures around 165m long with a variable width from 40m at its east end to 25m at its west terminal. The eastern terminal is not visible as cropmarks on aerial images and a total length cannot be confirmed. The monument also consists of at least 20 barrows, some of the more common circular plan and others square on plan. Rounds barrows are earlier, dating to the Neolithic or Bronze Age while the square barrows may date to the Iron Age or Early Medieval period. Barrows were formed by a ditch, sometimes two, which would have surrounded a stone or earth mound. Often within the centre of the barrow is a pit which represents a burial.

Located within, and overlapping the north line of, the cursus are two circular barrows, between 10-15m in diameter, one with a central burial. About 25m northeast of the cursus is the remains of a possible barrow at least 12m wide, around three quarters of the circuit is recorded. In the approximate centre of the scheduled area, and 65m west of the west terminal of the cursus, is a pair of round barrows measuring around 8m in diameter, one with a complete circuit, the other with half a circuit and a central burial recorded. The western half of the scheduled area has three distinct groupings of barrows. The westernmost group consists of three or four round barrows measuring between 8-11m diameter, one with a central burial, and one square barrow around 9m wide with a central burial. The middle of the western groupings consists of at least seven square barrows, measuring between 5m and 12m wide, with six providing evidence for a central burial. This group also has the remains of a barrow of more typical circular plan, measuring at least 10m in diameter. The grouping nearest the centre of the monument on the western side consists of at least three square barrows, measuring between 5m and 7m in diameter, two with central burials. There are further smaller features visible across the monument which may represent pits, barrows and small enclosures. This grouping of features appears to represent a Neolithic ritual and funerary complex with a later barrow cemetery.

The scheduled area is irregular, extending at least 15 metres from the outer edges of the cropmarks (based on transcription data). It includes the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded are all post and wire fences and gates.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a. The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the past as a multi-phase site dating from prehistory; the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age Early Medieval periods. In particular, it adds to our understanding of prehistoric society in Scotland and the function, use and development of ritual and funerary sites. Cursus monuments are a rare source of evidence for the Neolithic in Scotland and so this example is important in our understanding of the nature of Scotland's prehistoric society and landscape. This example contributes to our understanding of the plan, design and siting of prehistoric ritual and burial monuments in the Neolithic and later prehistoric periods. 

b. The monument is visible as cropmarks and we can be confident it retains buried structural and other physical attributes which makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the past. Study of aerial images demonstrates the overall plan of the monument is clear and understandable with features surviving as buried remains. There is also significant potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits within the monument that are not visible as cropmarks. The monument can significantly add to our understanding of understanding of the meaning and importance of ritual in the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods.

c. The monument is a very rare example of a Neolithic cursus with later prehistoric ritual and burial remains. The number and density of the remains and evidence for likely multi-phase use is unusual.

d. The monument is an excellent example of a cursus and barrow cemetery and is therefore an important representative of this monument type. It can enhance our understanding of prehistoric and Early Medieval society and economy, as well as the nature of burial and ceremonial practices and belief systems.

e. The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding of the past. It can tell us about the character, development and use of ritual sites, and the nature of prehistoric society, economy, social hierarchy and burial in this area of Scotland and further afield. Further research and investigation of the surviving buried remains have the potential to explain the precise chronology of this site. Such a chronological explanation may help to inform our understanding of the development of similar prehistoric sites across Scotland.

f. The monument makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the historic landscape by its association with other prehistoric sites in the local area.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The monument is a cursus and barrow cemetery visible as cropmarks on oblique aerial photographs, located on fairly level arable land. The overall plan of the monument is very clear on the aerial images, understandable and individual features are identifiable.

The cursus is defined by a series of pits forming lines of delineation. Cursus monuments are long, often wide, roughly rectangular enclosures with rounded or squared terminals. They are defined either by an internal bank and external ditch arrangement, or, as this example shows, free-standing timber posts which might be unique to Scotland. The eastern terminal is not visible as cropmarks so the total length of the cursus is currently unknown. The western terminal is clearly recorded and provides a more complete plan form. Cursus monuments are traditionally regarded as having a processional role, they have also been connected to timber hall and mortuary enclosure traditions. The prehistoric barrows across the monument represent the remains of burial features. The barrows are defined by a single ditch which would have surrounded a stone or earth mound. Within the centre of many of the barrows is a pit which represents a burial. Some of the barrows are square on plan and these are likely later than the other circular examples at the site. Square barrows can date from as late as the Early Medieval period (500AD-1100AD) and, in Scotland, are often associated with Pictish material culture.

Buried archaeology monuments often contain features that are not visible on aerial photographs and can have well preserved stratified layers of archaeological deposits. There is therefore potential for the survival of archaeological features and deposits, including burial remains, artefacts and environmental remains such as charcoal or pollen within the cursus and barrows and their surrounding ditches. The monument has the potential to provide information about the function and date of the cursus and barrow cemetery and its relationship to others in the vicinity. Study of the monument's form and construction techniques compared with other cursus and barrows would enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site.

Further scientific study of this site would allow us to develop a better understanding of the nature and chronology of the site, including its date of origin, the character of the remains and the overall development sequence. This would also help us to understand the relationship between the cursus and the barrow cemetery, as well as the relationship between circular and square barrows on the site.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

Cursus are a very rare class of monument across Scotland, located mostly on the eastern and southern parts of the country. There are only 30 examples of pit-defined cursus recorded in the National Record of the Historic Environment. There are no other pit-defined cursus recorded within a 10km radius of this monument and only two other examples within a 20km radius of this monument. The nearest are; Milton of Rattray, cursus and enclosed settlement S of (scheduled monument SM7172) 19km northwest and Woodhill, cursus 100m NW of (Scheduled Monument SM6564) 18km east-northeast.

Barrows are found throughout Scotland. The examples at this monument are of particular significance because of the relatively high number and concentration of features such as round barrows, square barrows and some with evidence for a central burial. There are other examples of barrows in the vicinity of this monument, the closest, also visible as cropmarks are; Falcon Stone, cup-marked stone & barrow 500m SSE of Millhill (scheduled monument SM6503) and Falcon Stone, barrow 320m SSW of (scheduled monument SM6505) both are around 4km west-northwest of the monument.  

There is potential to study these sites together to better understand their functions within their contemporary local communities and possible chronological development in the area. The monument has the potential to enhance and broaden our understanding of prehistoric society, community as well as ritual and funerary practices. In particular, this monument offers an opportunity and the potential to help inform our understanding of possible interaction and relationship between cursus and various types and phases of barrows. The presence of later square barrows, that could date from the Early Medieval period, provides further great potential to study the development of a site with a particularly long-time depth.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this site's cultural significance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE IDs 85696 and 32034 (accessed on 05/05/2021).

ScARF National Framework website, Neolithic Panel Report: (accessed on 05/05/2021).


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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