Ancient Monuments

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Home Plantation, square barrow cemetery 350m SSW of Nithbank

A Scheduled Monument in Mid and Upper Nithsdale, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.2447 / 55°14'40"N

Longitude: -3.7787 / 3°46'43"W

OS Eastings: 287013

OS Northings: 595939

OS Grid: NX870959

Mapcode National: GBR 271S.QR

Mapcode Global: WH5VN.XFSQ

Entry Name: Home Plantation, square barrow cemetery 350m SSW of Nithbank

Scheduled Date: 31 October 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13710

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: barrow

Location: Penpont

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Mid and Upper Nithsdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the buried remains of a square barrow cemetery dating to the later prehistoric or early medieval period (between around AD 100 and AD 800). The monument is visible as cropmarks recorded on aerial photographs. The cemetery comprises eight rectangular or trapezoidal barrows and at least three large pits. The pits probably represent burial pits of additional barrows or unenclosed burials. The monument is on the west bank of the river Nith, at about 50m above sea level.

The barrows measure around 3-6m across within ditches up to around 1m wide. Most of the ditches are interrupted by gaps in the corners and burial pits are visible within four of the barrows.

The scheduled area is irregular, 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 scheduled area runs up to but does not include the post and wire fences to the northwest, southwest and east.

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 square barrow cemetery which has been recorded as cropmarks on aerial photographs and survives as buried archaeological features below the ploughsoil. Although no features survive above ground, the aerial photographic evidence clearly shows the layout of the cemetery and the barrows are well defined. At least three large pits are visible among the barrows. These may represent burial pits of additional barrows or unenclosed burials.

Excavations of similar monuments elsewhere for example, Red Castle, Angus (Canmore ID 35800), Boysack Mills, Angus (Canmore ID 35454) and Forteviot, Perth and Kinross (SM4232 and SM4111; Canmore ID 26560 and 26567) demonstrate that square barrows were built between around AD 100 and AD 800 and are burial monuments. The ditches defining the barrows are often broken at the corners and usually surround a central pit containing a single burial. Traces of wooden coffins have been recovered at some sites. Where evidence survives, the burials are covered by a flat topped mound. Unenclosed burials are also found within some cemeteries (for example at Red Castle, Angus) and usually consist of a single burial within a stone lined cist.

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 remains of the barrows and within the ditches and burial pits. The archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the date of the monument, ritual and funerary practices, and the development of burial practices in the later prehistoric and early historic periods. They have the potential to tell us about the structure of society and social status as reflected by differences in burial. Any artefacts and environmental material would enhance understanding of contemporary economy, land-use and environment.

There is no clear indication whether the remains derive from an extended development sequence. Study of the monument's form, construction techniques and burial practices has the potential to clarify the date of the remains and the development sequence at this site. Comparative study of the structure and composition of the cemetery has the potential to provide information about the construction and development of later prehistoric and early medieval cemeteries in southwest Scotland and more widely.

Contextual Characteristics

Square barrows are found across eastern Scotland, but are uncommon in the southwest of Scotland. Only around eight square barrows or groups of square barrows have been recorded in the southwest. These include a single square barrow within a cemetery of round barrows at Blackmore Scar (Canmore ID 65202) and individual square barrows at Gallaberry (Canmore ID 65861) and Holywood (Canmore ID 69935). Most square barrows known in the southwest have been identified as isolated examples or as part of a cemetery formed largely of round barrows. Square barrows in southwest Scotland also tend to be less regular in form than those known in eastern Scotland. The monument is therefore a rare example of a type found more commonly in the east of the country. It is part of a small group of regionally distinct burial monuments and is significant as the largest known cemetery of square barrows so far identified in southwest Scotland.

Later prehistoric or early medieval cemeteries are often found on low-lying agricultural land, on locally conspicuous terraces or knolls and associated with fords, landing places or territorial boundaries. The cemetery at Home Plantation is positioned on locally higher ground on either side of an old river channel, on the west bank of the river Nith. It occupies a locally conspicuous location, on the natural routeway formed by the river Nith and its valley.

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 the later prehistoric and early medieval periods. It is rare monument type in southwest Scotland and is the largest example of a square barrow cemetery known in Dumfries and Galloway at present. Although no features survive above the ground, the overall plan of the monument is clear and understandable. There is significant potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits. The monument can significantly expand our understanding of later prehistoric or early medieval society and economy, as well as the nature of belief systems, burial and ceremonial practices. The loss or damage of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the meaning and importance of death and burial, and the placing of barrows within the landscape in the later prehistoric and early medieval periods in southwest Scotland and further afield.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 65203 (accessed on 10/09/2018).

Dumfries and Galloway HER Reference MDG5663 (accessed on 10/09/2018).

Aerial photographs consulted: RCAHMS aerial photography A22858; A22859

Alexander, D (2005) Redcastle, Lunan Bay, Angus: the excavation of an Iron Age timber-lined souterrain and a Pictish barrow cemetery, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 135. pp. 41-118.

Campbell, E. (2010) Forteviot Pictish cemetery excavation 2010. Data structure report. Data structure report. Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot Project, University of Glasgow. (accessed 10/09/2018).

Cowley, D. C. (1996) Square barrows in Dumfries and Galloway, Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, vol. 71, 107-113.

Greig, C, Greig, M and Ashmore, P (2000) Excavation of a cairn cemetery at Lundin Links, Fife, in 1965-6, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 130. pp. 585-636.

Mitchell, J. and Noble, G. (2017) The monumental cemeteries of Northern Pictland. Medieval Archaeology 61(1), 1-40.

Murray, D. and Ralston, I. (1997) The excavation of a square-ditched barrow and other cropmarks at Boysack Mills, Inverkeilor, Angus, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland,127. pp. 359-386.

Pollar, T. (2007) Forteviot, Perthshire: Excavations of a barrow and unenclosed grave cemetery 2007. Data structure report. Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot Project, University of Glasgow. (accessed 10/09/2018).


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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