Ancient Monuments

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Long cairn, 200m north east of Kilhern

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Galloway and Wigtown West, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 54.938 / 54°56'16"N

Longitude: -4.8075 / 4°48'26"W

OS Eastings: 220248

OS Northings: 563976

OS Grid: NX202639

Mapcode National: GBR GHHN.JN9

Mapcode Global: WH2SB.34ZT

Entry Name: Long cairn, 200m NE of Kilhern

Scheduled Date: 28 March 2023

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13771

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn

Location: New Luce

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Mid Galloway and Wigtown West

Traditional County: Wigtownshire


The monument comprises the remains of a type of prehistoric burial monument known as a long cairn, thought to date to the period between 4100 to 2500BC. The cairn is an irregular elongated shape, roughly aligned northeast to southwest, visible as a mounded spread of loose stones with three larger outlying boulders. It is located in rough pasture to the northeast of Kilhern at approximately 140m above sea level.

The elongated plan form of the cairn is partly obscured by vegetation and the displacement of loose stone material. It is roughly trapezoidal, extending approximately 21m in length by 5m in width at its narrowest extent and 10m at its widest. The overburden of loose stone is uneven and is up to 1m in height. The cairn has been disturbed on its northern side and across the widest, northeast, end.  

The scheduled area is rectangular on plan measuring 30m by 20m. It includes the remains described above and an area around 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

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):  

a.  The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. Burial monuments are one of the main indicators of Neolithic activity in Scotland and are important in our understanding of prehistoric society, how this society dealt with death and commemoration and how landscape and natural resources were exploited. This example contributes to our understanding of the design, construction and siting of prehistoric ritual and burial monuments in the Neolithic period.  

b.   The monument retains structural and other physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. In particular, the overall, elongated, mounded form of the cairn survives and there is good potential for the survival of sealed archaeological and environmental materials below.

c.   The monument is an example from a group of prehistoric burial monuments, known as long cairns. There is currently, insufficient evidence to support a more specific interpretation of this variant. It is likely to belong to a regionally distinctive group of similar burial monuments in the west and southwest of Scotland.

e.   The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past. The internal arrangement of space and how burials were conducted can be researched, contrasted and compared with other monuments of the same type. Archaeological materials and environmental remains resulting from the activity that took place here are likely to survive in the sealed layers and this may include dateable material. The monument can help us better understand the chronological development of cairns during this period of Scottish prehistory and how such cairns were built and used, offering insights into life and death in prehistory. Surviving environmental materials could provide information on contemporary land use and environment.

f.   The monument makes a contribution to today's landscape and our understanding of the contemporary landscape in prehistory. Burial cairns are found in a variety of locations in the west and southwest of Scotland. Researchers indicate that they are deliberately positioned to take advantage of key topographical attributes such as views, intervisibility and natural routeways. This example is located in an area of broadly contemporary, prehistoric activity as evidenced by the nearby Caves of Kilhern funerary monument and the adjacent, broadly contemporary remains.


Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The drystone structure is thought to represent a type of funerary monument, the long cairn, associated with burial and commemoration during the Neolithic period in Scotland. The site is depicted on the first edition, 1848 Ordnance Survey mapping as a tapered, sub-rectangular area of stone material, with the annotation 'stones'.  

The trapezoidal plan form, partial remains of the disturbed, overlying cairn and outline of the monument survive as a coherent field monument, partially obscured by overlying vegetation. There is evidence of kerbing, recorded by limited archaeological evaluation at the eastern side of the cairn and potential phasing for the structure is indicated by the outline of a sub-circular element to the overlying cairn in its northeastern half. Cairn material has been partially removed, across its extent and it remains to be confirmed whether the absence of internal structure indicates a non-megalithic variant of this form of burial monument. The dimensions and proportions here are similar to other examples of long cairns of the broader class of monument, however, there is no further evidence, such as an internal arrangement of chambers or the presence of capstones or lining upright stones or a confirmation of a lack of these with which to determine a more detailed classification. Finally, there are three single, larger stones visible at the eastern, northwestern and western extent of the cairn outline. These may represent further structural elements of the cairn.  

There is good potential for the survival of archaeological deposits, including structural remains, burials, artefacts and environmental remains such as pollen and charcoal, within, beneath and around the upstanding structure of the cairn. These archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the date of the monument and its phases of construction and use, funerary practices and belief systems and therefore, the wider structure of Neolithic society. Surviving artefacts and environmental evidence can enhance understanding of contemporary economy, land-use and environment. The outlying boulders offer further potential for scientific research and may yield information related to use of the site for burial and commemoration and for ritual and ceremonial activity.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

The monument is one of over 90 examples of a generalised class of long cairn recorded in Scotland and part of larger corpus of burial monuments broadly dating to the period of Neolithic activity. Southwest Scotland has a regional cluster of two distinctive forms of prehistoric burial monument - the Clyde cairn and the Bargrennan cairn, with the former being more numerous than the latter. This example has a similar plan form to the nearby Caves of Kilhern cairn, a Bargrennan type cairn (scheduled monument reference SM1928, Canmore reference 61586). However, the internal structure and layout that can be seen at Caves of Kilhern is not visible in this example.

More generally, long cairns were often carefully positioned in the landscape often in conspicuous positions, in order to exploit topographic characteristics. They were often part of a wider concentration of contemporary activity. This example has predominant, longer distance views across its southeast to southwest arc. It is located relatively closely to the nearby Caves of Kilhern and the adjacent broadly contemporary activity, recorded by recent archaeological evaluation. The location of this example and its proximity to a similar burial monument and contemporary remains adds to our knowledge of the exploitation of this part of southwest Scotland during the Neolithic period. It can give important insights into the character and context of the Neolithic landscape and add to our understanding of social organisation, land division and land-use during the Neolithic.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

No associative character indicated.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 138720 (accessed on 04/01/2023).

Local Authority HER/SMR Reference MDG13279 (accessed on 04/01/2023).

Buckoke A, 1998, Kilhern II (New Luce parish),?Unchambered long cairn; ?Round cairn, Discovery and Excavation Scotland, pp29.

Henshall, A, 1972, The chambered tombs of Scotland. Vol II. Edinburgh. Edinburgh University Press.

Kinnes I, 1992, Non-megalithic long barrows and allied structures in the British Neolithic. British Museum Occasional Paper 52. British Museum. London.

Murray, J, 1994, Role of monuments in the Neolithic of the South of Scotland. Unpublished Phd Thesis. University of Edinburgh

Murray, J, 1992, The Bargrennan group of chambered cairns: circumstance and context in, Sharples NM, and Sheridan, A, Vessels for the ancestors: Neolithic of Britain and Ireland. Edinburgh. The University Press

Ordnance Survey, 1848, Wigtownshire. Sheet 11. Six inch. First Edition map.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1912, Fourth report and inventory of monuments and constructions in Galloway, 1, county of Wigtown. RCAHMS. Edinburgh


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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