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Balfarg Farmhouse, henge & standing stones 280m WSW of

A Scheduled Monument in Glenrothes North, Leslie and Markinch, Fife

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.2153 / 56°12'54"N

Longitude: -3.1592 / 3°9'33"W

OS Eastings: 328200

OS Northings: 703126

OS Grid: NO282031

Mapcode National: GBR 29.DJ5K

Mapcode Global: WH6RG.F1TM

Entry Name: Balfarg Farmhouse, henge & standing stones 280m WSW of

Scheduled Date: 21 December 1951

Last Amended: 27 August 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2184

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: henge

Location: Markinch

County: Fife

Electoral Ward: Glenrothes North, Leslie and Markinch

Traditional County: Fife

Description

The monument comprises a complex ritual and ceremonial site dating to the Neolithic period (about 4500 BC to 2500 BC). This multi-phase site has produced evidence for a henge, a timber circle, two stone circles in concentric rings, and an inhumation burial, together with evidence for several probable timber palisades. The complex was excavated in the 1970s in advance of a housing development, within which the monument now lies. The visible remains of the site include the enclosure ditch of the henge, two surviving orthostats from the stone circle, and the large slab previously covering the burial. The monument is situated on a low rise at a height of 100m above sea level.

The largest and earliest feature on the site was the henge itself, comprising a substantial ditch with an external bank (the latter no longer visible). Overall, the henge is estimated to have been about 100m in maximum diameter. A berm around 2m wide lay between the bank and the outer lip of the ditch. Unusually, the ditch did not continue around the SW arc of the site, where it appears a natural gully was used to provide the boundary. The ditch itself was about 10m wide and 2m deep at its maximum. The henge was entered across a narrow causeway on the W side. Some time later, a timber circle, around 25m in diameter and formed of at least 15 massive posts, was erected within the henge (now represented on site by short wooden posts); the largest post was sited in the W part of the ring. This was later replaced by two concentric stone circles, an inner and an outer (one stone from each of these remains standing today). The inner stone circle probably comprised 12 stones, each around 14m apart, while the outer circle comprised 24 stones, around 8m apart. The latest identified use of the site was a burial present in the centre (its massive capstone is visible today). The grave contained the skeletal remains of a young adult, buried in a crouched position and accompanied by a handled beaker and flint knife. The excavation also revealed the presence of a number of other features, including a series of potential timber palisades.

The scheduled area is circular 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 upper 30cm of the paved areas within the scheduled area are specifically excluded, together with the above-ground elements of all the modern wooden posts in the area, to allow for their maintenance. The site was last scheduled in 1961, but the map was not sufficiently accurate: the present amendment rectifies this.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance because it has the potential to make a significant addition to our knowledge and understanding of prehistoric ritual and funerary monuments and practices. In particular, the Balfarg complex, together with the nearby stone circle at Balbirnie and other sites in their vicinity, form one of the most important groups of monuments of Neolithic and Bronze Age date in eastern Scotland. Parallels and links exist between this site and other contemporary sites across the British Isles. The 1970s excavation has provided extensive information about this type of site, but the complex sequence of construction and the various uses of the site at Balfarg are still not fully understood. Our understanding of the distribution and character of Neolithic ritual spaces and their context would be diminished if this monument was lost or damaged. The loss of the monument would also prevent new techniques being applied in future to resolve some of the unanswered questions.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as NO20SE 5.

References

Barclay, G and Russell-White, C, 1993 'Excavations in the ceremonial complex of the third millennium BC to the second millennium BC at Balfarg/Balbirnie, Fife', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 123, 43-210.

Mercer, R J, 1981 'The excavation of a late Neolithic henge-type enclosure at Balfarg, Markinch, Fife, Scotland, 1977-78', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 111, 63-171.

Mercer, R J et al, 1988 'The Neolithic henge-type enclosure at Balfarg ' a re-assessment of the evidence for an incomplete ditch circuit', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 118, 61-67.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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