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Excavations at Three Early Bronze Age Burial Monuments in Scotland

  • C. J. Russell-White (a1), C. E. Lowe (a2), R. P. J. McCullagh (a2), S. Boardman (a2), S. Butler (a3), G. Collins (a4), T. Cowie (a5), C. Dickson (a6), A. Crone (a2), D. A. Davidson (a7), B. Finlayson (a8), D. W. Hall (a9), F. Lee (a10), J. I. McKinley (a11), V. J. McLellan (a2), A. O'Berg (a12), C. M. Rushe (a13), J. A. Sheridan (a5), K. M. Speller (a14), J. B. Stevenson (a15), R. Tipping (a16) and P. Wilthew (a12)...

Abstract

The excavations of the cemetery groups at Balneaves, Loanleven and Park of Tongland facilitate an examination of many aspects of Bronze Age burial practices in Scotland. They are notable as much for the differences in burial ritual they imply as for the very narrow chronological period in which they were used. The three sites produced a total of seventeen 14C dates, two of which are aberrant, with means of the remaining fifteen falling within a period of 250 years (3370–3610 bp in radiocarbon years). The excavations were sponsored by Historic Scotland (formerly Historic Buildings and Monuments, Scotland).

At Balneaves, a penannular ditch enclosed sixteen features, including a group of seven pits with cremation burials, four of which were associated with a distinctive assemblage of collared urns. The cremated bone was well preserved. At least one large standing stone had been erected on the site, and this was buried in the medieval period.

At Loanleven, only a segment of the enclosing ring-ditch survived, within which were four cists, two containing inhumations and two cremations, one of the latter (Cist 2) associated with a fragment of a food vessel. A decorated slab, in so-called ‘Passage Grave Style’, was recovered from Cist 1, and the same cist produced palynological evidence for grave furnishings in the form of a mat of plant material which probably underlay the body. 14C dates give a terminus ante quem of 3620±50 bp (GU–2543) for the re-use of the decorated slab, and a terminus post quem of 3410±50 bp (GU–2542) for the food vessel grave.

Park of Tongland, regarded as a Four-Poster stone circle, was excavated after the fall of a standing stone. It was shown to be of multi-period construction, consisting of a cairn which overlay seven pits containing fragmentary cremation burials, two associated with collared urns. The standing stones may not all have been erect at the same time. A series of 14C dates fell within the range of 1480–1530 bc.

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