Ancient Monuments

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Escart, standing stones

A Scheduled Monument in Kintyre and the Islands, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.846 / 55°50'45"N

Longitude: -5.4418 / 5°26'30"W

OS Eastings: 184631

OS Northings: 666784

OS Grid: NR846667

Mapcode National: GBR DFY8.84N

Mapcode Global: WH0K9.CBX6

Entry Name: Escart, standing stones

Scheduled Date: 9 April 1975

Last Amended: 7 February 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3656

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: standing stone

Location: Kilcalmonell

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Kintyre and the Islands

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument comprises an alignment of five standing stones likely to date to the second millennium BC. The stones stand in a row aligned approximately NE-SW. The measurements of each stone are as follows (from NE-SW): 1m by 0.3m, with a slight taper, 2.85m high; 1.3m by 0.4m and 3.3m high, the largest stone in the group; 0.7m by 0.4m and 2.44m high; 1m by 0.5m and 2.06m high; 0.8m by 0.25m and 1.12m high. The stones stand on a very gently sloping terrace, at 30m above sea level, immediately adjacent to Escart farmhouse. The two northernmost stones are within a yard at the edge of an area of hard standing; the other three stand on a lawn at the edge of the driveway. The monument was first scheduled in 1975 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is approximately oval on plan. The NW edge of the scheduled area extends to within 1m of the farmhouse. The scheduling includes the stones 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. The top 30cm of the driveway and hard standing, and the drystone wall which crosses the scheduled area, are excluded from the scheduling to allow for their maintenance.

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The five standing stones survive in excellent condition and occupy a striking setting within the landscape. All appear to be in their original positions and all but the southernmost of the group stand to their original height (the latter stone was damaged during tree felling and originally stood at least 1.5m high). The northernmost stone has a charge-hole near its base, but is otherwise in excellent condition. In addition to the five extant stones, there is some evidence to suggest that the group may originally have comprised more stones: the spacing between the two stones on either side of the drystone wall is greater than the spaces between the other stones in the group; and a number of massive boulders are incorporated into the lower courses of the wall enclosing the yard.

There is high potential for the survival of archaeological deposits and features relating to the monument's construction and use. For example, geophysical survey or excavation may reveal the presence of sockets where additional stones once stood and provide information about the method of erection of the stones. There is also good potential for the survival of burial deposits, such as cremations, and associated artefacts and environmental information beneath and between the stones. This stone alignment retains significant potential to enhance our understanding of the function of such monuments. Overall the monument has the potential to contribute to our understanding of prehistoric ritual and ceremonial monuments in general, and the function and development of stone alignments in particular.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The five standing stones survive in excellent condition and occupy a striking setting within the landscape. All appear to be in their original positions and all but the southernmost of the group stand to their original height (the latter stone was damaged during tree felling and originally stood at least 1.5m high). The northernmost stone has a charge-hole near its base, but is otherwise in excellent condition. In addition to the five extant stones, there is some evidence to suggest that the group may originally have comprised more stones: the spacing between the two stones on either side of the drystone wall is greater than the spaces between the other stones in the group; and a number of massive boulders are incorporated into the lower courses of the wall enclosing the yard.

There is high potential for the survival of archaeological deposits and features relating to the monument's construction and use. For example, geophysical survey or excavation may reveal the presence of sockets where additional stones once stood and provide information about the method of erection of the stones. There is also good potential for the survival of burial deposits, such as cremations, and associated artefacts and environmental information beneath and between the stones. This stone alignment retains significant potential to enhance our understanding of the function of such monuments. Overall the monument has the potential to contribute to our understanding of prehistoric ritual and ceremonial monuments in general, and the function and development of stone alignments in particular.

Contextual

Standing stones are a widespread class of monument across Scotland with notable concentrations in Dumfries and Galloway, Argyll, the Western and Northern Isles, Perthshire, Aberdeenshire and Caithness. In Lorn, Mid Argyll and Kintyre, there are over 90 examples. However, there are few stone alignments and this is one of the best-preserved examples in Argyll, outside of Kilmartin Glen.

Considerable effort would have been required to transport, position and erect these stones, which suggests that the alignment, and this location, were very important to those who planned, moved and erected the stones. This is a particularly impressive example, with at least five substantial standing stones, and probably more at the time of its construction. The locations of standing stones appear in many instances to have been selected to take advantage of natural routeways, views and inter-visibility with other monuments. Standing stones may have been part of a network of related landmarks. Many are visible from great distances and perhaps mark a significant area or territory. Standing stones are often located with reference to other ritual or burial monuments, such as henges, stone circles or cairns, and may themselves have formed part of some ceremonial or ritual activity. The Argyll standing stones are interesting because of the wider landscape within which they sit (especially in Kintyre) ' on land separating the Clyde to the east and the Atlantic to the west. It has been argued that the position of standing stones often coincides with observation lines focused on the rising or setting points of the sun or moon on a distant horizon at key dates in the year (for example, winter solstice). The alignment at Escart is said to have been erected for lunar observations.

Compared with similar examples elsewhere, Escart is unusual in that there are relatively few contemporary monuments in the vicinity and only one possible example of another prehistoric ritual monument: a standing stone approximately 1km to the NW. The stone alignment is deliberately placed on a gently sloping terrace aligned NE-SW, parallel to and facing towards West Loch Tarbert to the SW and towards the hilltop in the NE. Its placement within the landscape is undoubtedly significant and merits further analysis. The stone alignment could further our understanding of the positioning of ritual monuments and standing stones in relation to each other and in the landscape, and of the significance of these monuments to the societies that built and used them.

Associative

The 1st edition Ordnance Survey map depicts the site as the remains of a stone circle. National Importance

This monument is of national importance as a well-preserved example of a stone alignment, a ceremonial monument dating to the late Neolithic or Bronze Age. The monument has the potential to tell us more about ritual and ceremonial activity that took place here, as well as the wider beliefs and lifestyles of the prehistoric people who used these sites. The loss of this example would significantly impede our ability to understand the nature of early prehistoric ritual practices, activities, beliefs and social organisation, both in Argyll and across Scotland as a whole.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

On 23rd March 2012, Andrew Fulton wrote to Mr Crawford telling him about the scheduling assessment. Mr Crawford replied on 13th April to confirm ownership. John Malcolm and Rachel Pickering visited the monument on 21st May 2012. John Malcolm discussed the principle of rescheduling with Mr Crawford, who confirmed that he is content with the process. Rachel Pickering wrote to Mr Crawford on 15th June 2012 telling him that we anticipate developing a scheduling proposal for Scottish Ministers to consider. Mr Crawford has not raised any issues with the proposal to reschedule the monument.

RCAHMS records the site as NR86NW 2. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR reference is 3925.

References

RCAHMS 1971a, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the ancient monuments, volume 1: Kintyre, 63, no. 143. Edinburgh.

Ruggles, C L N 1984a, Megalithic astronomy: a new archaeological and statistical study of 300 western Scottish sites, Brit Archaeol Rep (BAR British series, vol 123), 183, no. KT5. Oxford.

Thom, A and A S 1979, 'The standing stones in Argyllshire', Glasgow Archaeol J, 6, 7-8.

Thom, A 1971, Megalithic lunar observatories, 60. Oxford.

Thom, A S 1981, 'Megalithic lunar observatories: an assessment of 42 lunar alignments', in Ruggles, C L N and Whittle, A W R, Astronomy and society in Britain during the period 4000-1500 BC, Brit Archaeol Rep (BAR British series, vol 88), 53. Oxford.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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