Ancient Monuments

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Moss of Achnacree, enclosure 455m north west of Murdostoun

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

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Latitude: 56.4638 / 56°27'49"N

Longitude: -5.3788 / 5°22'43"W

OS Eastings: 191943

OS Northings: 735305

OS Grid: NM919353

Mapcode National: GBR FC3M.M0T

Mapcode Global: WH1HC.BSXM

Entry Name: Moss of Achnacree, enclosure 455m NW of Murdostoun

Scheduled Date: 19 December 1975

Last Amended: 7 February 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3774

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: enclosure (ritual or funerary)

Location: Ardchattan and Muckairn

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument comprises the remains of a prehistoric enclosure. The site comprises an earth and stone bank enclosing a roughly oval area, measuring approximately 42m E-W by 27m N-W internally. The curving bank is much reduced on the W and ESE sides, but survives up to 6m thick and 1.5m high in places. On the SSE edge of the enclosure there is evidence of a probable entrance and causeway across an external ditch. The ditch is most visible along the S side of the enclosure and measures up to 6m in width. The monument is situated on boggy moorland on the Moss of Achnacree at around 20m above sea level. The monument was first scheduled in 1975, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains and the original documentation is missing: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in plan, extending 10m beyond the visible remains of the bank, except along the SE edge where it extends to 15m to include the external ditch and possible entrance. The scheduled area includes the remains described above and an area around them in which evidence relating to the monument's construction and use may survive, as marked 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

The monument survives as a substantial, roughly oval-shaped enclosure of prehistoric date. The monument is in fair condition today, although largely covered with gorse and scrub and surrounded by trees, which obscure the views from the enclosure. In earlier times, it would have had fine views across Loch Etive to the S and E. The enclosing bank has been levelled at some point in the past on the W and ESE edges. However, this bank of earth and stone survives for most of the circuit and is impressive in places, especially around the S and NE where it stands up to l.5m high and 6m wide. A slight gully runs across the interior from E to W and may be a later insertion. No other features are visible on the ground surface in the interior. The nature and form of the monument suggest a number of possible functions, including domestic, ceremonial, or mortuary use. However, given the site's location on the poorly drained Moss of Achnacree within a landscape rich in prehistoric burial cairns, it is perhaps most likely that it had a ritual or ceremonial function.

Although the exact function and date of the site are unknown, the monument retains much of its form and has the potential to yield important archaeological information relating to its construction, duration and the nature of its use. Buried features and deposits are likely to be found within the interior of the enclosure, in the ditch and around the entranceway, that could help identify the monument's function and allow comparison with similar sites. Given its location in a boggy area, there is good potential for the survival of waterlogged remains within the outer ditch, and possibly elsewhere. This could provide valuable environmental data, which would enhance our understanding of the environment and economy at the time of the monument's construction and use, and reveal how this landscape changed over time. The ditch and sub-surface features within the monument may also contain artefacts and other remains, including ritual deposits. Such assemblages would inform our knowledge of the lives, contacts, beliefs and practices of the people who built and used this enclosure.

Contextual characteristics

The enclosure is in a prominent position on the Moss of Achnacree, within an archaeologically rich prehistoric landscape. There are at least nine burial cairns, two chambered cairns and one other enclosure in the surrounding area. The low-lying land between Benderloch and Achnaba, alongside Loch Etive and with views to Ben Cruachan in the E, is considered to have been a ceremonial centre during the Neolithic and Bronze Age. This enclosure may have been part of a complex prehistoric ritual and funerary landscape and its position and relationship to other broadly contemporary monuments in the vicinity is likely to be of significance. There is also evidence for broadly contemporary land-division and settlement in the area and it is possible the enclosure relates to these in some way. Analysis of the position of the monument in relationship to others could further our knowledge of the development of this ritual and funerary landscape and broaden our understanding of prehistoric land-use and the structure of society and economy.

Whilst the site is comparable in nature to similar earthworks in Argyll, this enclosure is much larger than other examples and is notable for its lack of visible internal features. It is unlikely to have served a domestic or defensive function as it is on low-lying, poorly drained land in a non-strategic, but highly significant location.

Associative characteristics

The antiquarian, R. A. Smith, reported in 1873 that there was a 'raised and elongated mound' near the middle of the enclosure, entirely made of peat. He interpreted the site as a probable Norse 'thing' site (assembly place) and recorded that it was called 'Cuairt a' Bharan' (the court of the baron). Whilst this seems an unlikely interpretation, it adds to the view that the site was once an important place for gatherings.

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 use and re-use of a significant ceremonial landscape, and to contribute towards a wider understanding of prehistoric life, beliefs and the organisation of early society. Environmental evidence from the ditches and old ground surfaces can provide information about the environment at the time of the monument's construction and how this changed over time. Artefact assemblages and other buried archaeological remains can inform our understanding of the monument's function and the people who built and used the site. The location of the monument is likely to be significant, given that it is sited within such a rich archaeological landscape, which adds to its importance. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape, as well as our knowledge of prehistoric society, economy and environment.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




RCAHMS 1975, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the ancient monuments: volume 2: Lorn, Edinburgh, p. 97, no. 210.

Smith R A 1873, 'A descriptive list of antiquities near Loch Etive, Argyllshire, consisting of vitrified forts, cairns, circles, crannogs, etc.; with some remarks on the growth of peat', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol. 9, p. 408.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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