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Balneaves Cottage, cursus and settlement 200m south east of

A Scheduled Monument in Arbroath West, Letham and Friockheim, Angus

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.6363 / 56°38'10"N

Longitude: -2.6431 / 2°38'35"W

OS Eastings: 360647

OS Northings: 749565

OS Grid: NO606495

Mapcode National: GBR VT.8VFV

Mapcode Global: WH8RV.CGLF

Entry Name: Balneaves Cottage, cursus and settlement 200m SE of

Scheduled Date: 20 June 1994

Last Amended: 14 October 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM6041

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: hut circle, roundhouse; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cursus/

Location: Kinnell

County: Angus

Electoral Ward: Arbroath West, Letham and Friockheim

Traditional County: Angus

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a cursus likely to date to early prehistory (about 4000 BC to 2000 BC) and a settlement that dates probably to later prehistory (about 2000 BC to AD 500). The remains are buried below ground level but are represented by cropmarks visible on aerial photographs. The cropmarks indicate that the cursus runs NE-SW for a distance of at least 450m and varies in width from about 27m at its NE end to 23-24m in the central and SW portions. It comprises two long parallel lines of pits, closed by a short line of pits at its NE end and subdivided by a second short line of pits about 100m from the NE end. The site is located in the Lunan Valley about 500m south of the Lunan Water and lies 40m above sea level.

The individual pits of the cursus are often closely spaced, typically measuring about 1m in diameter, and set at intervals of about 0.5m to 1m. Although the NE end is closed by a line of pits, the SW end appears to be open-ended, but the true termination of the cursus may not be indicated by the cropmarks. The one visible internal partition coincides with a small change in the alignment of the cursus. A three-sided enclosure adjoins the NW side of the cursus very close to its NE end. It is defined by linear cropmarks and encloses an approximately rectangular area, some 35m by 20m.

Seven cropmarks indicative of penannular ditches cluster close to the NE end of the cursus, within 165m of the terminal. They vary from 10m to 19m in diameter. The relatively narrow width of the ditches suggests that these represent the foundation trenches of roundhouses. One of the penannular ditches appears to contain nine internal pits, the largest about 0.8m in diameter. These may be structural postholes or other pit features contemporary with the use of the roundhouse. Another cluster of cropmarks lies around 140m ESE of the NE end of the cursus and includes a penannular ditch 13m in diameter, an oval penannular ditch measuring 27m SE-NW by 22m transversely, and a ring ditch 7.5m in diameter that intersects the oval penannular ditch. Researchers interpret the smaller penannular ditch as another probable roundhouse, the larger penannuar ditch as a settlement enclosure, and the ring ditch as a small roundhouse or barrow. Between these features and the cursus are cropmarks suggestive of a further group of pits and a trackway. In addition a linear feature, probably a ditch, crosses the line of the cursus 160m from its apparent SW end.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan to include the remains described and an area around within them which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. On the west side of the public road, the scheduling extends up to but excludes post-and-wire fences that lie to the north, east and south. On the east side of the public road, the scheduling extends up to but excludes post-and-wire fences that lie to the north, east, south and west. For their maintenance, the scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of post-and-wire fences that cross the scheduled area and the above-ground elements of electricity poles and water troughs.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The cropmarks suggest that complex archaeological remains survive below ground, relating both to the pit-defined cursus and to roundhouses and settlement remains. The cursus is formed from a very large number of individual pits that have potential to contain interesting and significant deposits. Excavation of the Douglasmuir cursus, 1.6km to the SE, showed that the pits there contained evidence for massive oak posts. In contrast, a pit-defined enclosure at Bannockburn revealed no evidence for posts, but showed that the pits had complex histories: firstly, the pits were dug and allowed to infill; they were then re-cut and some were lined with stone or wood; burning events took place; and finally the pits were allowed to infill a second time. We can anticipate that the pits at Balneaves will likewise contain remains that could inform us about the design, construction, function, use, and development of the cursus monument. A development sequence seems very probable because the internal division towards the NE end of the monument suggests the extension of an existing pit-defined enclosure. The remains have high potential to develop our understanding of the purpose of cursus monuments, which researchers suggest were ceremonial avenues, and perhaps sacred spaces that acted as the venues for ritual activities. The monument can therefore enhance knowledge of ritual and ceremonial activities in early prehistory

Eight or nine circular or penannular features that were probably roundhouse foundations cluster around the NE end of the cursus. These have potential to tell us about the design, construction and use of roundhouses in later prehistory. As well as structural features, buried deposits may include both artefacts and ecofacts. These could help us build up a picture of the activities that took place on the site, the physical conditions, and the environment and land cover at the time. The remains can help to inform our understanding of the character of late prehistoric unenclosed settlement, including local variations in domestic architecture and building use. Potential also exists for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the rampart and other standing features. It is probable that the roundhouse remains date from different phases, giving the potential to explore issues such as the duration of house occupation, the nature of abandonment processes and the extent to which occupation of the site was continuous. Although the settlement remains probably post-date the cursus monument, evidence from elsewhere in Scotland suggests that important early Neolithic monuments could pattern people's use of the landscape for thousands of years afterwards. The presence of the settlement remains may be intimately connected with that of the earlier monument, and there is potential to explore how use of the landscape here developed over several millennia. There is also potential that the small circular feature SE of the NE end of the cursus may be a barrow that will preserve evidence for funerary activity close to the earlier cursus.

Contextual characteristics

This cursus is one of a small group of about 20 parallel pit alignments or rectilinear pit-defined enclosures identified in Scotland. Their distribution is limited: few potential examples exist in England and, in Scotland, the monuments cluster in eastern Dumfries and Galloway and in Angus. Two other examples lie close to Friockheim: the short cursus (65m long) at Douglasmuir, completely excavated in 1979-80; and the cursus at Milton of Guthrie that has similar dimensions to this monument, but three internal divisions.

The cursus and settlement remains lie in a valley that contains evidence for concentrated activity in prehistory and the many nearby archaeological sites enhance the value of this monument. A small, enclosed Bronze Age cremation cemetery 160m WNW of the NE cursus terminal was completely excavated in 1988 and dated to around 1800 BC. About 230m SE of the cursus are the cropmarks of a probable ring-ditch roundhouse, a sub-rectangular enclosure and a semi-circular arc of pits suggestive of a prehistoric ritual monument. By comparing this monument to others in the vicinity we can learn more about prehistoric ritual and settlement activity, examine how important early prehistoric ceremonial monuments influenced later landscape use, and gain a fuller picture of the development of prehistoric landscape and society in the region over time.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the study of cursus monuments and settlement in eastern Scotland. The cropmarks visible on aerial photographs indicate high potential for survival of complex buried archaeology that may include structural remains and artefacts and ecofacts, buried either when the cursus and roundhouses were built or during their use or abandonment. The monument's importance is enhanced because pit-defined cursus monuments are very rare in Scotland, and yet Friockheim is the centre of a highly unusual cluster. There is potential to examine the spatial relationships between cursus monuments in the locality and the variations in their design and construction, which may develop understanding of how and why these monuments were used. The monument has a particular capacity to inform debate on how major Neolithic ceremonial centres were remembered in later prehistory, where later settlement was located and how the use of landscape changed through time. Its loss or diminution would impede our ability to understand the cursus monuments of Scotland and their distinctive importance to Neolithic people.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NO64NW 27, 28, 52. The Angus SMR records the site as NO64NW0027, NO64NW0028, NO64NW0052

References

Brophy, K 1999 'The cursus monuments of Scotland' in Pathways and Ceremonies: The Cursus Monuments of Britain and Ireland, eds A Barclay and J Harding, Neolithic Studies Group Seminar Papers 4, Oxford.

RCAHMS aerial photographs:

AN2822

AN2825

AN2827

AN3251

AN3701

AN3703

AN3704

AN5142

AN5513

AN7038

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Other nearby scheduled monuments

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