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Poltalloch, cist 55m WNW of North Lodge

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Argyll, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.1214 / 56°7'17"N

Longitude: -5.5036 / 5°30'12"W

OS Eastings: 182318

OS Northings: 697605

OS Grid: NR823976

Mapcode National: GBR DDSJ.PW4

Mapcode Global: WH0HX.FDHL

Entry Name: Poltalloch, cist 55m WNW of North Lodge

Scheduled Date: 16 November 1933

Last Amended: 19 March 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM221

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 a prehistoric burial cist likely to date from some time between about 2000 BC and 800 BC. The cist survives as a stone-lined grave, aligned NE to SW and measuring 1.3m by 0.6m by 0.6m deep. It is partly exposed in the top edge of the slope of an E-facing gravel terrace, now under improved pasture. It is located at 30m above sea level and overlooks the lower ground of Kilmartin Glen and the significant complex of prehistoric monuments around Nether Largie. The monument was last scheduled in 1933, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is an elongated rectangle with a rounded end on plan, 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 monument remains partly concealed in the upper horizon of the gravel terrace. It is constructed from large, roughly dressed stones, with five slabs visible. The capstone and all except the E-facing lining stone appear to be in situ. The E-facing slab has fallen outwards in front of the cist, thereby exposing the cist interior. It bears a groove at each end and a further groove is believed to exist on the opposite slab; these grooves formerly held the end-slabs. There is no surviving evidence of a stone cairn.

At least two groups of short cists, one single cist and a burial have been exposed in the gravel terraces to the WNW and SW of North Lodge. This particular cist was investigated by Craw in 1928, who observed that it had been opened previously and no finds remained in the interior. Despite this, the site retains good potential for the survival and recovery of significant archaeological material which can add to our understanding of prehistoric burial practice. From excavations elsewhere, we know that other burials in the vicinity are likely, and that burials of this period were sometimes accompanied by significant grave goods. Indeed, an exquisite jet necklace was recovered from another cist found only 500m SW of this cist; human remains and pottery vessels are also commonly recovered from cists of this type. The buried land surface beneath the cist could preserve botanical remains, such as pollen or charred plant material, which can help us to reconstruct the climate, vegetation and agriculture at the time the cist was constructed. Overall, the site has the potential to enhance our understanding of the practice and significance of burial and commemoration of the dead and environmental conditions during this period in prehistory.

Contextual characteristics

The cist represents a form of burial practice which developed during the second millennium BC in Scotland. The distribution of cists and burial cairns is relatively widespread, but the presence of grooved grave-slabs is less common. As this is one of a group of eight cists known in this vicinity, it appears that the gravel terrace was a favoured location for burial and may have been used as a cemetery. This group of cists is part of the very rich complex of broadly contemporary, ritual and funerary monuments located along Kilmartin Glen and neighbouring glens. The cist contributes to the high value of the group of archaeological sites in this area, and is interesting for its location, overlooking the larger burial and ceremonial sites around Nether Largie. 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. Ritual and funerary monuments are our main source of evidence for this period because of the relative paucity of domestic remains. Such monuments have the potential to provide information not only on ritual and funerary practices, therefore, but also about wider prehistoric society and life.

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 around Kilmartin 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

Campbell and Sandeman, M and M, 1964, 'Mid Argyll: an archaeological survey', in Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 19, 1-125.

Craw, J H, 1929, 'On a jet necklace from a cist at Poltalloch, Argyll', in Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 63, 154-89.

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. 80, no. 104. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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