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Preston Mains, cursus and settlement 300m SSW of

A Scheduled Monument in Dunbar and East Linton, East Lothian

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Latitude: 55.9936 / 55°59'36"N

Longitude: -2.6469 / 2°38'48"W

OS Eastings: 359747

OS Northings: 678036

OS Grid: NT597780

Mapcode National: GBR 2X.VK8T

Mapcode Global: WH8VY.9MV3

Entry Name: Preston Mains, cursus and settlement 300m SSW of

Scheduled Date: 17 December 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13314

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cursus/bank barrow;

Location: Prestonkirk

County: East Lothian

Electoral Ward: Dunbar and East Linton

Traditional County: East Lothian


The monument is a multi-period site comprising the remains of part of a ditch-defined cursus of probable Neolithic date (between 4000 BC and 2000 BC); an enclosed settlement of likely Iron Age date (sometime between 500 BC and AD 500); and a timber hall and four sunken buildings of probable early medieval date (between about AD 500 and AD 1000), all visible as cropmarks captured on oblique aerial photographs.

The cursus is a substantial ritual Neolithic monument, consisting of two, approximately parallel linear ditches, aligned E-W and some 85m apart. The total length of the cursus is around 1310m and is visible intermittently on aerial photographs: this scheduling relates to a length of about 380m at its eastern end. There is a 'gap' of some 350m in the central section of the cursus, where the ditches have been obscured by the remains of a later enclosed settlement; and the probable western section of the cursus lies on the same alignment around 470m to the WSW. The later settlement is of probable Iron Age date and is enclosed by a series of sub-surface circular ditches that define an internal area measuring around 60m E-W by 60m N-S. A sub-rectangular cropmark overlying the eastern ditches of the enclosure probably represents an early medieval timber hall measuring 20m E-W by 8m transversely. The southern side of the enclosure is overlain by four smaller rectilinear features, the largest measuring 8m N-S by 4.5m transversely, which appear to represent the remains of sunken buildings, also of probable early medieval date. The cursus, enclosed prehistoric settlement and early medieval settlement all occupy an area of relatively level ground immediately S of the modern farm of Preston Mains at around 15m OD.

The scheduled area is irregular 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 is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all post-and-wire fences, stone boundary walls and hedgerows to allow for their upkeep and maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

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 study of a rare multi-period landscape in eastern Scotland, comprising a major Neolithic ritual monument, partly overlain by Iron Age and early medieval settlements. The cropmarks visible on aerial photographs indicate high potential for the presence of complex buried archaeology, including structural remains of different types, both ritual and domestic, as well as a range of artefacts and ecofacts relating to the various components of the site, both during their construction and use and after they were abandoned. The monument's importance is enhanced because of the size of the ditch-defined cursus, which is the largest currently known in Scotland. There is potential to examine the spatial relationships between cursus monuments in the locality and the variations in their design and construction, which may enhance our understanding of how and why these enigmatic monuments were built and used. The monument has a particular capacity to inform debate on how major Neolithic ceremonial centres were remembered in later prehistory, how that may have influenced the siting and nature of later settlement, and how the use of landscape changed through time. The loss or diminution of this monument would impede our ability to understand the distinctive cursus monuments of Scotland and their importance to Neolithic people, as well as the evolution of domestic settlements from the Iron Age through to the early medieval period, including changes in their function, organisation, contacts, economy and use of landscape.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NT57NE 29 and NT57NE 104. The East Lothian Council Historic Environment Record reference is MEL829. The western end of the cursus is scheduled as SM 6379.


Barclay, G J and Maxwell, G S 1998, The Cleaven Dyke and Littleour: Monuments in the Neolithic of Tayside, Soc Antiq Scot Monog Ser 13.

Brophy, K 1998, 'Cursus Monuments and Bank Barrows of Tayside and Fife'. In Barclay G J and Maxwell G S (eds) 1998, The Cleaven Dyke and Littleour: Monuments in the Neolithic of Tayside, Soc Antiq Scot Monog Ser 13, 92-108.

Brophy, K 1999, 'The cursus monuments of Scotland'. In Barclay, A and Harding, J (eds) 1999, Pathways and Ceremonies: The Cursus Monument of Britain and Ireland, Neo Stud Group 4, 119-129.

Harding, J and Barclay, A 1999, 'An introduction to the cursus monuments of Neolithic Britain and Ireland'. In Barclay, A and Harding, J (eds) 1999, Pathways and Ceremonies: The Cursus Monument of Britain and Ireland, Neo Stud Group 4, 1-8.

Smith, I 1991, 'Sprouston, Roxburghshire: an early Anglian centre of the eastern Tweed Basin', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 121, 261-294.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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