Ancient Monuments

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Dun Trossary, long cairn 200m south east of Trossary

A Scheduled Monument in Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eirisgeigh agus Uibhist a Deas, Na h-Eileanan Siar

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Latitude: 57.1259 / 57°7'33"N

Longitude: -7.3567 / 7°21'24"W

OS Eastings: 75972

OS Northings: 816627

OS Grid: NF759166

Mapcode National: GBR 897W.M4F

Mapcode Global: WGV4H.Y5Y1

Entry Name: Dun Trossary, long cairn 200m SE of Trossary

Scheduled Date: 2 August 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13670

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: long cairn

Location: South Uist

County: Na h-Eileanan Siar

Electoral Ward: Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eirisgeigh agus Uibhist a Deas

Traditional County: Inverness-shire



The monument is the remains of a long cairn dating from the Neolithic period. It was constructed and in use between around 4000BC to 2500BC. It survives as a substantial rectangular grass-covered mound. Projecting 'arms' or horns define a concave façade at the south end and the remains of a passage and chamber are visible within the body of the cairn, immediately north of this façade. The monument is located on the end of a west facing promontory at about 30m above sea level.

The cairn is oriented north-northeast by south-southwest and measures about 65m in length. The remains of a kerb are visible along part of the west side of the cairn. The chamber and passage entrance are defined by six stones and a hollow which are visible on the surface of the cairn. Immediately east of the entrance to the chamber is a large stone measuring around 3 metres high and 1.3 meters wide. It has been moved from its original position but is likely to represent part of the structure of the burial chamber or passage, or an element of a stone façade. Two large stones mark the northern extent of the cairn. A sheepfold, which incorporates a sheep dip and is partially constructed from robbed cairn material, overlies the central section of the cairn.

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 the modern sheepfold, including concrete walls, base and sheep dip, the above ground elements of all wooden and post and wire fences, stone walls and metal and wooden gates.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is a long cairn which survives as a substantial and impressive rectangular mound. Although the cairn has been disturbed and is partially overlain by a modern sheepfold, the overall plan of the monument and elements of its construction are clear and understandable. The remains of a chamber is visible while projecting horns form a forecourt area outside the chamber entrance, indicating Dun Trossary was a chambered long cairn. There is good potential for the survival of archaeological remains, including human burials, artefacts and environmental remains such as pollen and charcoal, within, beneath and around the upstanding structure of the cairn. The archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the date of the monument, ritual and funerary practices, and the structure of Neolithic society. Any artefacts and ecofacts would enhance understanding of contemporary economy, land-use and environment.

No long cairns have been excavated in the Western Isles. However, dating evidence elsewhere demonstrates that they were constructed and in use between around 4000BC and 2500 BC. They were used for communal burial and ritual, and excavations often reveal evidence of complex development sequences. The cairn may therefore have been in use for a long period of time. Scientific study of the cairn's form and construction techniques compared with other long cairns would enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site and of long cairns in general.

Contextual Characteristics

Although long cairns are found throughout Scotland, they are uncommon in the Western Isles. Only six are known at present and Dun Trossary is the only long cairn recorded on South Uist. The monument is therefore a regionally rare example of a type found more commonly on mainland Scotland.

It is likely related to chambered round cairns, which are the more typical form of Neolithic burial monument in the Western Isles. Six chambered round cairns are known on South Uist, including Leaval (Canmore ID 1785) around 1.6km south-southwest and Loch a'Bharp (SM5178; Canmore ID 9851) about 5km northeast. Dun Trossary contrasts in scale, form and chamber orientation to these other burial monuments. This suggests the long cairn may have performed a specific role within Neolithic society. In particular its scale suggests it may have had a wider community role. Its substantial dimensions and large forecourt area indicate the cairn likely provided a focus for large groups of people.

The monument, therefore, has the potential to enhance our understanding of the nature and development of Neolithic monumentality and burial, the nature of belief systems, ceremonial and burial practices. It can add to our knowledge of the differing functions of contemporary monuments within societies, as well as providing important insights into the Neolithic landscape and the values of contemporary communities. It has the potential to enhance our understanding of local responses to burial and ceremony, as well as important connections between regions during the Neolithic.

Long cairns are often placed in conspicuous locations within the landscape, at the edge of arable land and overlooking or inter-visible with other ritual monuments. The long cairn at Dun Trossary is located in a prominent position on the end of a low west facing promontory. There are extensive views west across the coastal plain towards the sea and more restricted views to the east and south. The monument, therefore, can add to our understanding of the positioning of Neolithic monuments within the landscape. 

Associative Characteristics

There are no known significant associative characteristics which contribute to the site's cultural significance.

Statement of national importance

This monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the design and construction of burial monuments, the nature of burial and ritual practices and their significance in Neolithic society. The long cairn is an impressive monument which retains its field characteristics. It is the only example of its type on South Uist and is a regionally rare monument type within the Western Isles. It can significantly enhance our understanding of Neolithic society and economy, as well as the nature of belief systems, burial and ceremonial practices. It would have been an important component in the wider prehistoric landscape of settlement, agriculture and ritual, and offers us important insights into that landscape. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the meaning and importance of death, burial and ritual in the Neolithic and the placing of cairns within the landscape.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 9784 (accessed on 18/05/2017).

Cummings, V. (2000) The world in a spin: representing the Neolithic landscapes of South Uist', Internet Archaeology 8. (accessed on 18/05/2017)

Cummings, V., Henley, C. and Sharples, N. (2012) The chambered cairns of South Uist in Parker Pearson, M. (ed) From Machair to mountains. Archaeological survey and excavation in South Uist, Oxbow Books, Oxford, 118-133.

Henshall, A S. (1972) The chambered tombs of Scotland, vol. 2. Edinburgh, p36-7

Parker Pearson, M., Sharples, N. and Symonds, J. (2004) South Uist. Archaeology and history of a hebridean island, Tempus, Stroud.

RCAHMS. (1928) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Ninth report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the Outer Hebrides, Skye and the Small Isles, Edinburgh, p123.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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