Ancient Monuments

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Nether Largie Mid, cairn 305m NNE of Nether Largie

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Argyll, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 56.1281 / 56°7'41"N

Longitude: -5.4926 / 5°29'33"W

OS Eastings: 183037

OS Northings: 698310

OS Grid: NR830983

Mapcode National: GBR DDTJ.2WC

Mapcode Global: WH0HX.L7PH

Entry Name: Nether Largie Mid, cairn 305m NNE of Nether Largie

Scheduled Date: 15 August 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13298

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Kilmartin

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Mid Argyll

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument is a round burial cairn covering a cist of the Bronze Age, built sometime between 2500 and 1000 BC. It is visible as low mound of boulders with a turf-covered outer bank. It measures approximately 30m in diameter and stands up to 1m in height. The cairn was excavated in the late 1920s revealing two cists. Kerb stones were reported along the SE edge of the cairn, but these are no longer visible. The most northerly cist, which was aligned NNE-SSW, measured 1.2m by 0.7m and was 0.6m deep. The side slabs were grooved to receive the terminal slabs and a further two grooves were found on the exterior of the NE slab. The cist had been set into a pit dug into the natural gravel and had been covered with a capstone. When excavated, the cist was found to be empty, but it was lined with flat pebbles. This cist is no longer visible, but a set of concrete posts marks its location. The other cist, located in the southern half of the cairn, was aligned NW-SE and measured 1.4m by 0.6m with a depth of 0.55m. The inner face of the N terminal slab is decorated with a cup-mark and a pecked axe-head. This cist had also been set into a pit dug into the natural gravel and had been covered with a capstone. The cist is displayed with the capstone propped over it. A slab measuring about 1m by 0.6m and decorated with 5 cup-marks was found about 1.5m from the cairn. The cairn is situated in a fenced enclosure within arable land on a low terrace in the Kilmartin Glen.

The scheduled area is circular on plan, measuring 50m in diameter, centred on the centre of the cairn. The scheduled area includes the remains described above and an area around them within which associated remains are expected to survive. The scheduled area specifically excludes the above-ground elements of the boundary fences enclosing the monument and the above-ground elements of the interpretation panel to allow for their maintenance.

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Excavation of similar cairns elsewhere in Scotland has demonstrated that many round cairns were used to mark human burials in the late Neolithic or Bronze Age and date most commonly from the late third millennium BC to the early second millennium BC. This cairn has been excavated and some of its fabric has been reinstated. However, it still retains important features and there is high potential for further archaeological remains to survive below ground.

The construction of the most northerly cist is of particular interest because its sides are grooved so that the end-slabs would achieve a better fit. This is an unusual feature in cist construction and perhaps suggests a translation of woodworking techniques into stone. The pecked depictions of an axe-head, such as that found on the N terminal slab of the S cist, is relatively uncommon, but there is a marked cluster of such features within the Kilmartin area; similar carved axe-heads occur at the Ri Cruin and Nether Largie North cairns, both of which date to the Bronze Age. Further rock art in the form of five cup-marks was found on a slab about 1.5m away from the cairn, although it is not clear whether this represents a deliberate placement, or part of a third cist which was destroyed by later stone robbing, or a chance find. Overall, the monument has an inherent potential to inform our understanding of the creation of rock art in prehistory and the possible relationship between such ritual monuments and burial structures.

In addition, although the monument was subjected to scientific excavation in the late 1920s, advances in archaeological techniques mean that the cairn retains high potential for the survival of further buried remains. As well as additional and as yet undiscovered burials, undisturbed archaeological layers offer excellent potential for the preservation of ancient botanical remains, which can help us to ascertain the nature of the climate, vegetation and agriculture in the area when the cairn was in use.

Contextual characteristics

Across Scotland, burial cairns are often inter-visible and sometimes seem to have been positioned specifically to maximise their visual impact. They are usually located on low ground in valleys and on the edges of higher ground, close to important route ways and agricultural land. Argyll cairns are often components of a ritual landscape created over many centuries, demonstrating the re-use and veneration of earlier foci of ritual activity. Clusters of cairns may point to areas of the landscape where power and wealth was concentrated, perhaps generated in part through the control of trade and exchange. Cairns have additional importance because they are the most prominent remains of early societies, whose domestic houses, farms and field systems have so far proved difficult to identify in the archaeological record.

This cairn is situated in Kilmartin Glen, which contains one of the densest concentrations of prehistoric ceremonial and burial monuments in Scotland. It is one of a series of burial monuments aligned along the valley floor, which are not only inter-visible with each other, but also have clear lines of sight to standing stones or stone circles and rock art. As such, the monument has the capacity to further our understanding of the enduring importance of such sites over a long period of time, their distribution within the landscape, and how they related to one another.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

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 society. This monument is particularly valuable because of its potential to inform our understanding of rock art and its use within burial monuments, specifically the cup-marks and the relatively rare axe-head carvings, their ritual significance and the potential relationships between sites such as standing stones, carved rock outcrops and other cairns where such motifs appear. In addition, the cairn is of particular interest due to its place within the Kilmartin Glen, which contains one of the densest concentrations of ceremonial and ritual monuments in Scotland. 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 ritual, death and burial in prehistoric life.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as NR89NW 5. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR reference is 4083. The monument is in the care of Scottish Ministers.


Campbell and Sandeman, M and M (1964) 'Mid Argyll: an archaeological survey', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol. 95, p. 34, no. 244.

Craw, J H (1931a) 'Further excavations of cairns at Poltalloch, Argyll', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol. 65, p. 274-5.

RCAHMS (1988a) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments, vol. 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, prehistoric and early historic monuments. Edinburgh.

Stevenson, J B (1997) 'The prehistoric rock carvings of Argyll', in Ritchie, J The archaeology of Argyll, p. 103. Edinburgh.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Nether Largie Mid Cairn
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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