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Barsloisnach, two cists 230m ESE of

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Argyll, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.1037 / 56°6'13"N

Longitude: -5.5173 / 5°31'2"W

OS Eastings: 181363

OS Northings: 695676

OS Grid: NR813956

Mapcode National: GBR DDRL.3KF

Mapcode Global: WH0HX.6VY7

Entry Name: Barsloisnach, two cists 230m ESE of

Scheduled Date: 16 November 1933

Last Amended: 19 March 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM181

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cist

Location: Kilmartin

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Mid Argyll

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of two burial cists likely to date to sometime between the later third and early first millennium BC. The cists lie approximately 10m apart in a marshy hollow at the edge of a field of improved pasture. They are located around 870m ENE of the shore of Loch Crinan at about 5m above sea level. The monument was first scheduled in 1923, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The cists survive as partly exposed, stone-lined graves, surrounded by slight mounds of stones which may be the vestiges of a burial cairn or cairns. The SE cist, aligned N-S, is the larger of the two, measuring 1.2m by 0.6m by 0.75m deep; the capstone is a substantial slab measuring 2.8m by 1.24 and up to 0.17m thick. The NW cist is aligned NW to SE and measures 1m by 0.6m by 0.5m deep, with a capstone 1.4m by 0.8m and 0.08m thick. Both cists are built of large, roughly dressed stones.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, measuring 40m in diameter, to include 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

The cists survive in reasonable and stable condition. The NW cist is clearly visible with some of its lining stones exposed in situ. The SE cist is partly obscured by a low mound of stones and turf, but the capstone is fully visible and a void at one of its corners reveals part of the underlying cist structure.

The two cists were investigated by Craw in 1929, who reported that the SE cist had grooves on the W and E side-slabs, which formerly held the end-slabs. The S end-slab was in place, but the N end-slab was missing. The inner face of the E side-slab was decorated with two cupmarks, each about 50mm in diameter and 15mm in depth. One of the cupmarks had been damaged by one of the grooves, indicating that it may have been a re-used stone. This, and the fact that there are two cists, suggests the site may have a more complex development history than appears at first sight. The side-slabs of the NW cist did not have grooves, but the end-slabs were carefully placed between them and the floor was partly paved with flat slabs. The only find was a fragment of polished jet from the SE cist.

Low, turf-covered stony mounds surround the cists, which may be the remains of small burial cairns or a single large cairn that once covered both cists. Despite the earlier investigations, there is still potential for the survival and recovery of significant archaeological material, and the cists themselves may retain important information that can add to our understanding of prehistoric burial. From excavations elsewhere, we know that burial cairns may contain several burials, often accompanied by significant grave goods. Excavation at similar sites has also revealed that important archaeological remains may survive in the areas around and between cists. The presence of cairn-like material around these two cists suggests that a larger area is likely to contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the construction and use of this site. The buried land surface can preserve botanical remains, such as pollen or charred plant material, which can help us to reconstruct a picture of the climate, vegetation and agriculture at the time the burial cists were constructed. These deposits can enhance our understanding of the practice and significance of burial and commemoration of the dead and the environmental conditions during specific periods in prehistory.

Contextual characteristics

These cists are an example of the burial practices that developed throughout the Bronze Age in Scotland. The distribution of cists and burial cairns is relatively widespread, but the presence of grooves and rock art motifs on grave-slabs is much less common. These burial cists are part of a very rich complex of broadly contemporary, ritual and funerary monuments located along Kilmartin Glen and neighbouring glens. They contribute to the high value of the group of archaeological sites in this area. These cists are also interesting for their unusual location on open low-lying ground reasonably close to the sea. Researchers believe that burial cists and cairns were often positioned in the landscape so as to be highly visible along route-ways or above fertile land, and to be intervisible with other burial and ceremonial monuments. A third burial cist (now lost) has been recorded only some 300m to the NW, from which a cremation burial and pottery urn was recovered, which suggests that there may have been a cemetery in this vicinity. A number of broadly contemporary cists and a cemetery containing substantial burial cairns are found in the Kilmartin Glen, less than 2km to the N.

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, in particular the design and construction of burial monuments in the Bronze Age and their significance in prehistoric society. Buried evidence from cists can enhance our knowledge about material culture, the treatment of the dead, ceremony and commemoration, and the environmental conditions at the time. This monument is also of national importance as part of the exceptionally rich prehistoric landscape in the Kilmartin area reflecting life and death in the Bronze Age. Its loss would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand ritual and funerary practice in Argyll and further afield.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NR89NW 34. West of Scotland Archaeology Service records the site as WOSAS PIN 4066.

References

Campbell and Sandeman, M and M, 1964, 'Mid Argyll: an archaeological survey', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 95, 19.

Craw, J H, 1930, 'Excavations at Dunadd and at other sites on the Poltalloch Estates, Argyll', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 64, 136.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1988, Argyll: an inventory of the monuments, volume 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, prehistoric and early historic monuments, p 76, no 84. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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