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Allt Sgiathaig, chambered cairn, 1km north west of Achmore Farm

A Scheduled Monument in North, West and Central Sutherland, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 58.1832 / 58°10'59"N

Longitude: -5.0049 / 5°0'17"W

OS Eastings: 223421

OS Northings: 925529

OS Grid: NC234255

Mapcode National: GBR G703.48H

Mapcode Global: WH28C.2LZ2

Entry Name: Allt Sgiathaig, chambered cairn, 1km NW of Achmore Farm

Scheduled Date: 29 August 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13700

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn

Location: Assynt/Assynt

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: North, West and Central Sutherland

Traditional County: Sutherland

Description

The monument is the remains of a chambered cairn dating to the Neolithic period, probably built and in use between around 4000BC and 2500BC. It is visible as a large grass covered stony mound that has been truncated on its west side by a cutting for a modern road. A passage, entering on the southwest side is still visible as is the burial chamber which appears to have an alcove or smaller chamber on its east side. The monument is located on a southwest facing slope, at about 150m above sea level.

This chambered cairn survives largely intact, although some cairn material has been removed through modern road works on the western side. The cairn measures around16m north-south by 12.5m east-west and stands up to about 2.5m in height. There is evidence of an entrance passage leading to chamber with either a subsidiary chamber or alcove on the east. A number of large stones are visible on the top of the cairn which may be lintels or slumped capstones.

The scheduled area is circular on plan, measuring 36m in diameter except on the west side which has been cut by the modern road 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.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is a chambered cairn which survives as a substantial stone-built mound. Although some of the cairn material has been removed, the monument stands close to its original scale and appearance. The entrance passage and burial chamber can be identified and it is likely that other features survive within the body of the 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 environmental material would enhance understanding of contemporary economy, land-use and environment.

Dating evidence from chambered cairns 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 chambered cairns would enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site and of chambered cairns in general.

Contextual Characteristics

Chambered cairns are found throughout Scotland, with a concentration in the north and west. The example at Allt Sgiathaig is important as an upstanding, well-preserved and largely undisturbed example. It is part of a wider cluster of chambered cairns in the area, including Cnoc Bad na Cleithe (SM1807; Canmore ID 4634), Ledbeg River (Canmore ID 4642) and Ledmore (SM1804; Canmore ID 4643). The proximity of these burial monuments can give important insights into the Neolithic landscape and add to our understanding of social organisation, land division and land-use. The monument 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.

Chambered cairns are found in a variety of locations. Some are placed in conspicuous locations within the landscape, such as on the summits of hills or on the shoulders of hills, perhaps to be seen on a skyline or otherwise in profile. Others are found in less conspicuous locations, for example on valley floors. Relationships to routeways and/or other ritual sites, locations near to good upland pasture and views over specific areas of land may also have had significance. The chambered cairn at Allt Sgiathaig is positioned on a west facing slope overlooking what was probably always a north/south routeway. It occupies a prominent position with extensive views to the northwest towards Quinag and south and west towards Loch Assynt.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this site's national importance.

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 chambered cairn is an impressive monument which retains its field characteristics and can be compared with other chambered cairns that survive in the vicinity. As such 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 of the wider prehistoric landscape of settlement, agriculture and ritual and would have been a prominent part of the prehistoric landscape. Chambered cairns are one of our main sources of information for the Neolithic in Scotland and so are an important element in our understanding of the nature of Scotland's prehistoric society and landscape. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the meaning and importance of death and burial, and the placing of cairns within the landscape in the Neolithic period in northern Scotland and further afield.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 4650 (accessed on 20/06/2018).

Highland Historic Environment Record Reference: MHG13024 (accessed on 20/06/2018).

Cavers, G. and Hudson, G. (2010) Assynt's hidden lives: and archaeological survey of the parish, AOC/ Historic Assynt.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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