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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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Coordinates

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

Description

The monument comprises a chambered cairn of Neolithic date, dating probably to the third millennium BC. It survives as large, circular mound of moss-covered stones. The cairn matrix is relatively uniform, composed of small and medium sized stones, with occasional larger boulders. The chambered cairn stands to a maximum height of 4.1m and is approximately 24.4m in diameter. Larger boulders and two orthostats on the SE side of the cairn indicate the remains of the entrance and a possible shallow façade. The entrance would originally have been marked by two portal stones. The monument sits on a turf platform, which extends up to 10m out from the base of the cairn. It is composed of the same material as the cairn itself and edged with a kerb of larger boulders, which are particularly visible on the SW side. A natural hollow surrounds the platform. The monument was first scheduled in 1969, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, 60m in diameter, centred on the cairn. The scheduling includes 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

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

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NM93NW 1. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR reference is 1388.

References

Current Archaeology, 1972, 'Chambered Tombs in Scotland', Current Archaeology, volume 3, 11 September pp. 306-7.

Henshall, A S 1972, The chambered tombs of Scotland, volume 2, pp. 335-337. Edinburgh.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1988, Argyll: an inventory of the monuments volume 2: Lorn, p37. Edinburgh

Smith, R A 1873b, 'Descriptive list of antiquities near Loch Etive', Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 9, pp. 218-27.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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