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Cnocbreac, hut circle and field system 745m north west of

A Scheduled Monument in Aird and Loch Ness, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.3797 / 57°22'46"N

Longitude: -4.4492 / 4°26'56"W

OS Eastings: 252850

OS Northings: 834791

OS Grid: NH528347

Mapcode National: GBR H9D6.SWF

Mapcode Global: WH3FM.MSK0

Entry Name: Cnocbreac, hut circle and field system 745m NW of

Scheduled Date: 31 October 1981

Last Amended: 19 July 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4335

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: hut circle, roundhouse

Location: Kiltarlity and Convinth

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Aird and Loch Ness

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a hut circle and part of an adjacent field system near the foot of the SE-facing slopes of Druim Ba, now situated in a forestry clearing 745m NW of Cnocbreac. The hut circle appears as a low turf-covered mound with several large protruding stones. The surviving field system comprises at least one large clearance cairn. Both the hut circle and field system date probably to the Bronze Age period, from about 2500 BC to about 1000 BC. The monument was first scheduled in 1981, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The hut circle, set into the slope, is around 11m in diameter within walls spread to about 2m in thickness and standing approximately 0.5m in height. Several sizeable stones protrude through the turf walling, possibly the remains of stone facing or an indication that the bank was composed of mixed earth and stones. The entrance is located on the south-east. The field clearance cairn lies some 30m north-west of the hut circle. It is roughly circular and comprises a mound of small stones capped by a large boulder. Earlier descriptions of the field system describe lynchets, more clearance cairns and possible terracing into the slope, all now obscured by forestry.

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.

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Apparently undisturbed and unexcavated, the hut circle represents a good example of its type. Based on the size and form of the hut circle, the site dates probably to the Bronze Age, approximately 2500 BC to about 1000 BC, and represents the remains of a single domestic dwelling with a patchwork of small fields immediately adjacent. Unenclosed settlements often appear in clusters or loose groups and it is likely that others may have stood nearby.

Based on evidence from excavated examples, the hut circle would have had a conical roof supported on sizeable wooden posts. Covered with thatch, the roof probably extended almost down to ground level, with the turf and stone bank forming the external wall and rising up to the roof's timbers. The entrance faces south-east.

A single large field clearance cairn is situated approximately 30m north of the hut circle, although earlier accounts describe this area as being densely populated with small cairns, as well as lynchets and ruinous walls, and suggest that the fields may have averaged about 35m by 20m. Cairns like these are the result of stones being ploughed up during cultivation and then piled up at the edges of the fields. Clearance cairns are often the only visible evidence for prehistoric agricultural activities.

Deposits within the hut circle, particularly postholes and pits, are likely to contain artefacts and other evidence relating to the occupation of the hut. Additionally the area around the hut circle has good potential for the remains of middens and craft activities, both of which can tell us more about the everyday lives of those living in the hut. The field system north of the hut circle has the potential to enhance our understanding of Bronze Age agriculture.

The monument has an inherent potential to enhance our understanding of the lives and diet of its inhabitants, and contemporary society, economy and beliefs. Evidence from comparable sites elsewhere in Scotland has demonstrated the high probability that archaeological remains may be preserved in and around the monument.

Contextual characteristics

Upstanding remains of unenclosed hut circles tend to survive in marginal landscapes such as this, places where more recent cultivation has either been limited or has never happened. Consequently the known distribution of hut circles is unlikely to be a true reflection of their past distribution and it is reasonable to suppose that hut circles were scattered throughout the landscape.

Hut circles often appear in loose groups or clusters and often in conjunction with the remains of field systems. Several hut circles and associated field systems survive in the surrounding area, with a notable cluster approximately 2.3km to the WNW, close to the Allt Dearg stream. These monuments probably represent the remains of a once extensive later prehistoric landscape, subsequently eroded through afforestation throughout the 20th century.

Further study and comparison of these monuments may inform our understanding of settlement type and character in this area, including location, density, chronology, contemporaneity and phasing of occupation, and perhaps indicate social hierarchies. This in turn could add to our understanding of the regional character of settlement across Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular domestic and agricultural life in the Bronze Age period. Apparently undisturbed, this hut circle and its adjacent field system offer good potential for the preservation of archaeological deposits relating to their construction, the everyday lives and activities of the occupants, and the abandonment of the area in the Bronze Age. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the everyday lives of Bronze Age communities.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

The site is recorded by the RCAHMS as NH53SW 12 and by the Highland Council Archaeological Service SMR as MHG 3364.

References

Jolly W, 1882, 'On cup-marked stones in the neighbourhood of Inverness; with an appendix on cup-marked stones in the Western Islands', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 16 351-2

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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