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Carn Ban, chambered cairn, Moss of Achnacree

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

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Latitude: 56.4734 / 56°28'24"N

Longitude: -5.3742 / 5°22'27"W

OS Eastings: 192277

OS Northings: 736355

OS Grid: NM922363

Mapcode National: GBR FC3L.WN9

Mapcode Global: WH1HC.FK38

Entry Name: Carn Ban, chambered cairn, Moss of Achnacree

Scheduled Date: 23 December 1969

Last Amended: 7 February 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2854

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn

Location: Ardchattan and Muckairn

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

Traditional County: Argyllshire


John Lessels, 1870-76. Terrace comprising unified façade of 3-storey and basement, 3-bay astylar renaissance townhouses with main-door and common stair flats behind. Advanced 9-bay centrepiece. Sandstone ashlar, droved at basement, channelled at ground floor. Entrance platts oversailing basements. Banded base course. Banded cill course at 1st and 2nd floors, bracketed at windows to 2nd floor. Corniced eaves course. Architraved and corniced doorpieces; rectangular fanlights. Consoled stone balconies at 1st floor on scrolled brackets with cast-iron railings. Segmental arched 1st floor windows, architraved consoled and corniced; small roundels to alternate bays. Architraved surrounds at 2nd floor.

N (END) ELEVATION: 3 storeys, 2 bays to centre of mostly blank elevation. 2-storey corniced canted bay off centre right. Channelled ashlar at ground floor; large recessed panels at 1st and 2nd floors. Corniced eaves course. Moulded architraved surrounds to canted bay.

Predominantly plate glass in timber sash and case windows. Corniced ashlar gable end and ridge stacks. Double pitch M-section roof; grey slates. Cast-iron railings on ashlar cope edging basement recess to street. Cast-iron balconies to 1st floor. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: interior typified by decorative classical scheme with fine plasterwork, ceiling roses and well detailed cornicing.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic Characteristics

This monument is an impressive chambered cairn of the Hebridean group and survives in excellent condition. The cairn retains its form to a significant degree. A considerable amount of cairn material survives, although its height has diminished slightly because of robbing and past investigations. An excavation in 1871 revealed a passage measuring 6.4m in length, 0.6m wide and 1m high, which led to three inner chambers, all constructed of upright slate slabs with dry-stone walling between. The stone infill was removed during the excavation, but the passage and chambers remain intact, although no longer accessible. There are also the remains of the entrance and a possible shallow façade on the SE side of the cairn, evidenced by a portal stone and a number of larger boulders. The presence of a façade is particularly interesting as this structural element is reminiscent of Clyde Cairns. Indeed, earlier excavation at Carn Ban suggests that the chambered cairn has multiple phases of development and that it contains both Hebridean and Clyde cairn features. The monument retains high potential for the study of its construction and development sequence. Future excavation could help determine the sequence of structural development, deposition of human remains, and clearing and re-use of the chambers. Carn Ban has high potential to enhance our understanding of the use and evolution of chambered cairns in Argyll and further afield.

Chambered cairns are Neolithic in origin, dating most commonly from the third and fourth millennia BC. Excavation elsewhere suggests that they were used over a long period and housed the remains of multiple individuals. Cairns like Carn Ban were often adapted over time and could also form a focus for burial in later periods. Buried deposits associated with cairns can help us to understand more about the practice and significance of burial and commemorating the dead at specific periods 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 ground surface that could provide evidence of the environment when the monument was built. Botanical remains, including pollen or charred plant material, may 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.

Excavation of the chambers revealed two fragmentary burial urns and other fragments of Neolithic pottery with crude decoration, as well as a number of white quartz pebbles, which had been carefully selected and placed within an inner compartment. However, this site has not been fully or scientifically excavated and there is considerable potential for the survival of archaeological information, including animal and human remains, charcoal and other organic residues, as well as artefacts. Scientific analysis of these remains could greatly enhance our understanding and appreciation of ritual and funerary practices and attitudes towards death and burial.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is an outstanding example of a Hebridean passage tomb. Carn Ban is of particular interest because it is one of only two chambered cairns of this group in the area and lies at the southern limit of the distribution of Hebridean type chambered tombs. This large stone mound would have been dominant in the landscape, overlooking the Moss of Achnacree. Its structural form and relationship with other ritual and funerary monuments in the surrounding landscape has the potential to inform us about wider contacts in prehistoric society.

The cairn is also of importance because of its setting in a landscape rich in ritual and funerary prehistoric monuments. Another chambered cairn is situated approximately 700m to the ENE and there are at least nine other cairns on the Moss of Achnacree. Also on the Moss are two broadly contemporary enclosures that may have had ritual or ceremonial functions; and another cluster of cairns occurs at Achnaba to the E. The position of this cairn in relation to other prehistoric monuments in this landscape merits future analysis. It has the potential to further our understanding of funerary site location, ritual practice, and the structure and beliefs of early prehistoric society.

Associative characteristics

The site holds an important place in local and national awareness, not least because of its impressive appearance in the landscape and its accessibility. It retains strong aesthetic qualities, with much of the original cairn remaining intact. Carn Ban is also significant as one of the earliest Hebridean tombs to have been excavated, in 1871. The site is denoted on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map as Carn Ban.

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. Chambered cairns provide the chief material evidence for the Neolithic in this part of Scotland. Buried evidence from chambered cairns can enhance our knowledge of wider prehistoric society and economy, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. This monument is particularly valuable because of its excellent condition and impressive location within a landscape rich in prehistoric monuments. 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 times.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Ordnance Survey, Large Scale Town Plan, (1893 - 94); J Gifford, C McWilliam, D M Walker, The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh (1988) p. 376; Youngson, The Making of Classical Edinburgh, (1988) p. 216; West End Community Trust, Edinburgh's West End, A Short History, (1984).

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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