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West Town, ring cairn 240m south west of

A Scheduled Monument in Aird and Loch Ness, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.3629 / 57°21'46"N

Longitude: -4.2929 / 4°17'34"W

OS Eastings: 262177

OS Northings: 832591

OS Grid: NH621325

Mapcode National: GBR H9S8.68W

Mapcode Global: WH3FX.160C

Entry Name: West Town, ring cairn 240m SW of

Scheduled Date: 1 March 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11551

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: ring cairn

Location: Dores

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Aird and Loch Ness

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Description

The monument is a Clava-type ring cairn, a prehistoric burial site dating to the Early Bronze Age. It lies on a knoll at 230m above sea level, surrounded by improved pasture sloping gently down to Loch Duntelchaig.

The cairn measures approximately 29m by 24m and up to 1.5m in height. A quantity of stone cleared from the field has been added to the top of the cairn. Excavation in 1964 showed that the central court measured about 8.5m in diameter within a ring-bank 2.7m thick. In 1992, it was possible to see four stones of the revetment of the court still in an upright position, and another prostrate. It is now difficult to see these four upright stones. One large upright slab is visible in the interior and other large boulders lie around and on the edge of the mound. At least one other prostrate slab is visible.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, centred on the cairn, to include the visible remains and an area around in 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 archaeological significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics: Despite a degree of disturbance and erosion and the addition of some field clearance stones, the monument retains important field characteristics that clearly identify it as belonging to the group of monuments known as Clava cairns, a rare and geographically limited class of monument. From the excavation of related monuments we now understand that the remains associated with ring cairns can include stone platforms enclosed by a circle or 'kerb' of stones, larger surrounding stone circles and rubble banks or 'rays' joining them as well as other features, and that they have a complex history of development. So, despite partial excavations in 1964 the monument still has the potential to include well-preserved remains that can help us to better understand Early Bronze-Age funerary and ritual practices. It is also likely to seal information about the prehistoric environment that existed at the time of its construction and use.

Contextual characteristics: This monument is an example of a small, regionally defined group of 50 or so prehistoric monuments, known as Clava cairns, which are only found in the Inverness and Moray Firth area, particularly along river valleys and low ground south of the Firth. Examples generally include components of stone circles, ring cairns and passage graves. The monuments tend to have a dominant position in relation to the immediate location only.

This example is located within a wider landscape of prehistoric settlement and field systems close to Loch Duntelchaig. It can be compared and contrasted to nearby prehistoric funerary monuments, and others outside the region, to create an understanding of regional identity and society. The close association with water is typical of Clava cairns. The number of Clava cairn cemeteries within Strathnairn indicates that the valley had special importance to the Bronze Age population. These cairns share a common orientation to the S and SW, which may relate to movements of the sun and moon across the southern sky.

Associative characteristics: It is the view of most prehistorians that there was an intimate relationship between the religious beliefs expressed by monuments such as this, the surrounding landscape and the movements of the main astronomical bodies. This astronomical link continues to generate considerable interest today.

National Importance: This monument is of national importance because it represents a rare and regionally distinctive class of Early Bronze Age monument that can help us to understand burial and ritual practices in NE Scotland and their relationship to what is happening elsewhere in the British Isles. The loss of the monument would affect our future ability to appreciate and understand the prehistoric landscape and its inhabitants.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the monument as NH63SW 47; Highland Council SMR as NH63SW0047.

Photographs:

RCAHMS, C26385CN, West Town Cairn.

Highland Council, View of Cairn Looking Downslope, A. King.

References:

Bradley R 2000, THE GOOD STONES: A NEW INVESTIGATION OF THE CLAVA CAIRNS, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland monograph series No. 17, Edinburgh.

Henshall A S 1963, THE CHAMBERED TOMBS OF SCOTLAND, 1, Edinburgh, 380-1, INV 50.

Woodham A A 1958, 'West Town, Loch Dun Seilcheig', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 1958, 24.

Woodham A A 1964, 'West Town, Loch Dun Seilcheig', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 1964, 31-2.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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