Ancient Monuments

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Barbeith, cairn 105m west of

A Scheduled Monument in Oban North and Lorn, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.459 / 56°27'32"N

Longitude: -5.3809 / 5°22'51"W

OS Eastings: 191785

OS Northings: 734779

OS Grid: NM917347

Mapcode National: GBR FC3N.01S

Mapcode Global: WH1HC.9XX9

Entry Name: Barbeith, cairn 105m W of

Scheduled Date: 16 September 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12911

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Ardchattan and Muckairn

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a cairn, built probably in the late Neolithic or Bronze Age between 3000 and 1000 BC. It is visible as an irregular mound of small and medium sized stones, mostly covered by moss or other vegetation. It lies at North Connel, around 55m north of Loch Etive and 285m south of Lochan na Beithe. It stands around 15m above sea level on a site raised above Loch Etive that gives good views to the south-east and south-west. The monument was first scheduled in 1977 together with two other cairns located to the north-west, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains. The present rescheduling rectifies this and relates only to this cairn: the other two cairns are being rescheduled separately.

The upstanding remains of the cairn measure around 23m N-S by 19m transversely; the cairn stands up to about 2m in height. Although quantities of stones have been removed from the top and sides, the core of the cairn appears to be relatively undisturbed and it continues to form an upstanding feature in the landscape.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The cairn was probably a round cairn originally. Excavation suggests that round cairns were normally used to cover and mark human burials and are late Neolithic or Bronze Age in origin, dating most commonly from the late third millennium BC to the early second millennium BC. Archaeological information is likely to survive buried beneath the stones, possibly including one or more burials. The excavation of similar mounds elsewhere in Scotland shows that such cairns often incorporate or overlie graves or pits containing cist settings, skeletal remains in the form of cremations or inhumations, and artefacts such as pottery and flintwork. About a dozen cairns in the Lorn area contain or are known to have contained burial cists and comparable remains may exist beneath this cairn. These deposits can help us understand more about the practice and significance of burial and commemorating the dead at specific times in prehistory. They may also help us to understand the changing structure of society in the area. In addition, the cairn is likely to overlie and seal a buried land surface that could provide evidence of the immediate environment before the monument was constructed. Botanical remains, including pollen or charred plant material, may also survive within archaeological deposits deriving from the cairn's construction and use. This evidence can help us to build up a picture of climate, vegetation and agriculture in the area before and during construction and use of the cairn.

Contextual characteristics

This monument lies at the southern edge of the Moss of Achnacree, a peninsula of relatively low, flat land that extends south between Ardmucknish Bay to the west and Loch Etive to the south-east. This is an area of glacial deposits probably associated with the retreat of the glacier that occupied Loch Etive and has seen the growth of peat 1m-5m thick over recent millennia. There is a cluster of important archaeological sites lying on and around the moss to the north and east of this cairn, within approximately 2km. The cluster includes two well-known chambered cairns, Carn Ban and Achnacreebeag, from the Neolithic period, between 4500 BC and 2500 BC, as well as a larger number of other cairns, without identified chambers, that are likely to date from the late Neolithic or Bronze Age, between around 3000 BC and 1000 BC. Many of the latter are comparable to this monument. They are typically between 11m and 24m in diameter and stand between 0.6m and 2.6m high. Larger examples also exist in the wider vicinity: the cairns of Lorn range in size from 4m to 42.7m in diameter. A variety of other archaeological remains are known in the area, including two enclosures of uncertain date that lie within 1km to the north-east and north-west. The growth of peat has sealed a range of known structures and deposits, including field banks and buried soils, and there is high potential for the discovery of additional remains. These may provide information about settlement, agriculture and economy to complement the evidence of the cairns themselves. Thus, given the many comparable sites in the area, this monument has the potential to further our understanding not just of funerary site location and practice, but also of the structure of early prehistoric society and economy.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, particularly the design and construction of burial monuments, the nature of burial practices and their significance in prehistoric and later society. This monument is of high value because of its position close to two other cairns and because it lies in a landscape where there are several more distant cairns, as well as a diverse range of other archaeological features. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape and the meaning and importance of death and burial in prehistoric life.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NM93SW 17. The WoSAS SMR records the site as WoSASPIN 1439.

References

RCAHMS, 1975, Argyll; an Inventory of the Ancient Monuments, Vol 2, Lorn, HMSO: Edinburgh

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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