Ancient Monuments

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Achnaba House,cairns 30m, 175m & 305m south west of, & 340m & 530m WSW of

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

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Latitude: 56.4726 / 56°28'21"N

Longitude: -5.3387 / 5°20'19"W

OS Eastings: 194455

OS Northings: 736158

OS Grid: NM944361

Mapcode National: GBR FC6M.19Y

Mapcode Global: WH1HC.YKXX

Entry Name: Achnaba House,cairns 30m, 175m & 305m SW of, & 340m & 530m WSW of

Scheduled Date: 4 March 1977

Last Amended: 7 February 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2818

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncertain)

Location: Ardchattan and Muckairn

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

Traditional County: Argyllshire


Later 19th century. 2-storey gabled, 3-bay house, with 1st floor breaking eaves. Natural harl with aslar sandstone dressings.

S ELEVATION: wide gable advanced slightly to left; door at centre by re-entrant angle with angle bracketted slab canopy. Boarded door. Window flanking to right; bipartite at 1st floor, breaking eaves in flat-roofed dormerhead. Stone mullioned tripartite window at ground in advanced bay to left with bipartite in gablehead above. Window to each floor of E gabled elevation.

8-pane glazing pattern to sash and case windows. Overhanging eaves withexposed rafters and timber brackets; kingpost and finial to advanced gable. Polychrome brick end stacks.

GATEPIERS AND QUADRANT: corniced ashlar gatepier; whinstone rubble quadrant with gablet sandstone coping.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Despite stone robbing and disturbance in the past, the cairns are generally in good condition and are stable. Cairn B, approximately 340m WSW of Achnaba House, is the best preserved and retains much of its original form and cairn material, including a clear kerb of large boulders, particularly visible on the W side. This example in particular has high potential to contribute towards our understanding of the form, construction and development sequence of burial cairns. Cairn E, the southernmost cairn, is the largest of the group and remains impressive despite having been disturbed in the past. It is thought to have stood up to 2.4m high originally, its size emphasised by its location on a bluff overlooking Loch Etive. Despite the disturbance, it retains a considerable amount of cairn material. All of the cairns retain their form and cairn material to a variable but significant degree. There is good potential for the survival of burials and associated artefacts within this cairn field, as well as evidence for the construction and use of the cairns.

Burial cairns of this date may incorporate or overlie several graves or pits containing cist settings, skeletal remains in the form of cremations or inhumations, pottery and stone tools. Excavations of similar cairns in Argyll have revealed jet jewellery and pottery, including beakers and food vessels, as part of the funerary assemblage. There is high potential for the survival of similar archaeological deposits and artefacts within these cairns, as they retain much of their form and matrix and have not been excavated previously. Such finds have the potential to inform us about trade and contacts in prehistory, as well as beliefs surrounding death and burial. Grave goods and animal and human remains found at such sites can help us understand more about the practice and significance of burial and commemoration of the dead at specific times in prehistory. They may also help us to understand the changing structure of society in the area.

Excavations at other round cairns in Argyll have revealed that they often have longer and more complex development sequences than used to be believed. It is likely that these monuments were used and re-used over a long period of time, possibly millennia. Study of the development sequence and chronology of this group of cairns could contribute towards a better understanding of the creation and evolution of a well-defined ritual and funerary landscape. In addition, these cairns are likely to overlie and seal a buried land 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 build up a picture of climate, vegetation and agriculture in the area before and during construction and use of the cairn.

Contextual characteristics

Across Scotland, cairns are often inter-visible and sometimes seem to be positioned specifically to maximise their visual impact. This site is of particular interest as it consists of a group of associated cairns, placed within a presumably significant landscape setting on a fertile plateau overlooking Loch Etive. All of the cairns are inter-visible. The southernmost cairn, probably the largest of the group originally, has a particularly striking position on a natural bluff overlooking Loch Etive, with views towards Ben Cruachan to the east.

There is a large number of burial cairns and other ritual monuments of Neolithic and Bronze Age date in the North Connel area, in particular on the Moss of Achnacree to the south-east. This area seems to have been particularly significant during prehistory as a place of burial and associated with ritual and funerary practices. Argyll cairns are often components of a ritual landscape created over many centuries, often demonstrating re-use and veneration of earlier foci. Clusters of cairns may point to areas of the landscape where power and wealth was concentrated, perhaps generated in part through control of trade and exchange. The position and significance of these cairns in relation to other prehistoric monuments may be significant and merits further analysis. Comparison of each of the cairns, and of the group as a whole with other broadly contemporary monuments nearby could further our understanding of ritual and funerary site location and practice and enhance understanding of the structure of early prehistoric society and economy.

Associative characteristics

The westernmost cairn (Cairn A) is associated with the name 'Leac Mac Mi'os' which translates as 'the flag[stone] of the month old child'. This name and reference to the cist can also be found on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map. It is possible that the recorded excavation of a cist in the 19th century came from this cairn, as a hollow in its centre indicates robbing or quarrying.

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. Buried evidence from cairns can also enhance our knowledge about wider prehistoric society, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. This monument is of particular value as a group of broadly contemporary cairns, and because of their location in a landscape rich in other prehistoric monuments, particularly ritual and funerary sites. 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 life.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



John Swan and Sons Ltd. Sales Brochure. 1st edition OS Map, 1861.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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