Ancient Monuments

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Seacliff, settlement and cists 600m ENE of

A Scheduled Monument in North Berwick Coastal, East Lothian

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Latitude: 56.0496 / 56°2'58"N

Longitude: -2.6242 / 2°37'27"W

OS Eastings: 361216

OS Northings: 684259

OS Grid: NT612842

Mapcode National: GBR 2Y.QY31

Mapcode Global: WH8VR.N6LM

Entry Name: Seacliff, settlement and cists 600m ENE of

Scheduled Date: 25 September 2000

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM8741

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: other midden deposits; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cist

Location: Whitekirk and Tyninghame

County: East Lothian

Electoral Ward: North Berwick Coastal

Traditional County: East Lothian


The monument comprises a cist cemetery of Bronze Age date and a midden dating to the Iron Age or medieval period.

The monument occupies an area of raised beach overlooking a stretch of rocky coastline at Car Rocks, at around 10m OD. It comprises an area of raised beach deposit, lying between two rocky bluffs and overlain with blown sand. A number of burials have been recovered from this location over the past 150 years, the presence of human remains first having been recorded by George Sligo in 1857, when he noted the finding of human skeletal material in association with animal bones, charred wood, charcoal and ashes.

More recently, several more formally arranged burials have been recovered in the area. In 1962, a skeleton was revealed as a result of coastal erosion. It had been placed in its grave in a crouched position, and this -combined with the fact that the grave pit was lined with upright stone slabs - indicates that the corpse is likely to have been interred during the early Bronze Age. A further crouched inhumation was revealed through coastal erosion in 1987, and another in 1990.

In addition to its earlier role as a cist cemetery, this portion of the raised beach appears to have been re-used for more utilitarian purposes. Rough stone slabs were placed over the burials, and over these a midden deposit comprising animal bones and shells has accumulated. Some masonry remains are also visible in section.

The date of this accumulated debris cannot be determined without further investigation, but analagy with similar deposits recovered elsewhere on the south-east coast of Scotland suggests that such a deposit is likely to date either to the Iron Age or the medieval period.

The area proposed for scheduling comprises the remains described and an area around them within which related material may be expected to be found. It is irregular on plan, measuring a maximum extent of 130m from NW to SE by a maximum of 35m transversely, as marked in red upon the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance primarily because of its potential to contribute to our understanding of prehistoric ritual practices. It is of particular importance because it represents a rare surviving example of a prehistoric cist cemetery which remains relatively undisturbed and which is likely to have great potential in terms of the artefactual and skeletal material remaining in situ.

Further interest is added by the fact that the site has been reclaimed and re-utilised at a later date, perhaps for domestic purposes, and it seems certain that important environmental and perhaps artefactual evidence belonging to both phases of use will remain in situ beneath the current ground surface.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NT 68 SW 8.


Carter, S. (1990) Seacliff: Burials, Associated Structures. In Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, 31.

Nisbet, H. C. (1975) Seacliff: Pavings, Kitchen Midden, Human Remains. In Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, 23.

Sligo, G. (1857) Notes on an Ancient Cave, etc. Discovered at Aldham, now called Seacliff, in East Lothian, in 1831. In Archaeologia Scoticca Vol. 4, 353-361.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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