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Excavations at Upper Largie Quarry, Argyll & Bute, Scotland: New Light on the Prehistoric Ritual Landscape of the Kilmartin Glen

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 March 2013

Martin Cook
Affiliation:
AOC Archaeology, Edgefield Industrial Estate, Loanhead, Midlothian EH20 9SY
Clare Ellis
Affiliation:
Argyll Archaeology, Davaar Cottage, Campbeltown, Argyll PA28 6RE
Alison Sheridan
Affiliation:
National Museums Scotland, Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF

Abstract

Excavations were carried out intermittently between 1982 and 2005, by various excavators, in advance of quarrying activity at Upper Largie, Kilmartin Glen, Argyll & Bute. They revealed abundant evidence of prehistoric activity, dating from the Mesolithic to the Middle Bronze Age, on a fluvioglacial terrace overlooking the rest of the Glen, although some evidence was doubtless destroyed without record during a period of unmonitored quarrying. Several undated features were also discovered. Mesolithic activity is represented by four pits, probably representing a temporary camp; this is the first evidence for Mesolithic activity in the Glen. Activity of definite and presumed Neolithic date includes the construction, and partial burning, of a post-defined cursus. Copper Age activity is marked by an early Beaker grave which matches counterparts in the Netherlands in both design and contents, and raises the question of the origin of its occupant. The terrace was used again as a place of burial during the Early Bronze Age, between the 22nd and the 18th century, and the graves include one, adjacent to the early Beaker grave, containing a unique footed Food Vessel combining Irish and Yorkshire Food Vessel features. At some point/s during the first half of the 2nd millennium bc – the oakbased dates may suffer from ‘old wood’ effect – three monuments were constructed on the terrace: a pit, surrounded by pits or posts, similar in design to the early Beaker grave; a timber circle; and a post row. The latest datable activity consists of a grave, containing cremated bone in a Bucket Urn, the bone being dated to 1410–1210 cal bc; this may well be contemporary with an assemblage of pottery from a colluvium spread. The relationship between this activity and contemporary activities elsewhere in the Glen is discussed.

Résumé

Divers organismes ont entrepris des fouilles par intermittence entre 1982 et 2005, avant l'ouverture d'une carrière à Upper Largie, Kilmartin Glen, Argyll & Bute. Elles ont révélé d'abondants témoignages d'activité préhistorique, datant du mésolithique à l'âge du bronze moyen, sur une terrasse fluvioglaciaire dominant le reste du Glen, bien que certains vestiges aient sans aucun doute été détruits sans être répertoriés pendant une période d'extraction non contrôlée. Plusieurs vestiges non datés ont également été retrouvés. L'activité mésolithique est représentée par quatre fosses qui constituaient probablement un campement temporaire; c'est le premier témoignage d'activité mésolithique dans le Glen. Les activités de datation néolithique, certaine ou supposée, comprennent la construction et l'incendie partiel d'un cursus limité par des poteaux. L'activité de l'âge du cuivre est marquée par une tombe du début des peuples à vases qui a des contreparties aux Pays-Bas à la fois par sa forme et son contenu et soulève la question de l'origine de son occupant. La terrasse a été ré-utilisée comme lieu d'inhumation pendant l'âge de bronze ancien, entre le XXIIème et le XVIIIème siècles, et parmi les tombes on en trouve une, adjacente à l'inhumation des peuples à vases anciens, qui contenait un unique récipient à nourriture à pied qui associait les caractéristiques des récipients à nourriture d'Irlande et du Yorkshire. A certain(s) moment(s) pendant la première moitié du second millénaire av.J.-C. – les dates obtenues de chênes peuvent être affectées par l'effet de ‘vieux bois’ – trois monuments furent construits sur la terrasse, un puits entouré de fosses ou de poteaux dont la forme est semblable à celle de la tombe du début des peuples à vases, un cercle de bois et une rangée de poteaux. La dernière activité datable consiste en une tombe contenant des os incinérés dans une urne en forme de seau, les os sont datés de 1410–1210 av.J.-C. cal, il se pourrait qu'ils soient contemporains d'un assemblage de poterie provenant d'une surface de colluvion. On discute de la relation entre cette activité et les activités contemporaines ailleurs dans le Glen.

Résumen

Las excavaciones se llevaron a cabo intermitentemente entre 1982 y 2005, a cargo de diferentes excavadores, y en anticipación a la extracción de roca en la cantera de Upper Largie, Kilmartin Glen, Argyll & Bute. Revelaron evidencia abundante de actividad prehistórica, desde el Mesolítico a la Edad del Bronce Media, en una terraza fluvioglacial que domina el resto del Glen, aunque sin duda parte de la evidencia fue destruida, sin haber sido registrada, durante un período de extracción no supervisada. Varias estructuras sin datar también fueron descubiertas. La actividad del Mesolítico está representada por cuatro pozos, probablemente indicativos de un campamento temporal; ésta es la primera evidencia de actividad mesolítica en el Glen. La actividad de fecha neolítica, tanto establecida como supuesta, incluye la construcción y quema parcial de un monumento de tipo cursus de postes de madera. La actividad del Calcolítico aparece indicada por un enterramiento del Campaniforme temprano que es similar a enterramientos en Holanda en su diseño y contenido, y que plantea la cuestión del origen de su ocupante. La terraza fue utilizada de nuevo como lugar de enterramiento durante la Primera Edad del Bronce, entre los s. XXII y XVIII, y los sepulcros incluyen uno, adyacente al sepulcro del Campaniforme temprano, que contenía un recipiente único tipo Food Vessel con pies, que combina características de los recipientes tipo Food Vessel de Irlanda y de Yorkshire. En algún momento o momentos durante la primera mitad del II milenio A.C. – las dataciones obtenidas de madera de roble pueden estar afectadas por el efecto “madera vieja” – tres monumentos fueron construidos en la terraza: un pozo, rodeado por hoyos o postes, similar en diseño al sepulcro del Campaniforme temprano; un círculo de madera; y una alineación de postes. La actividad más reciente que ha podido ser datada consiste en una tumba que contiene hueso incinerado en una urna tipo cubo, y con una datación al carbono-14 de entre 1410–1210 cal A.C. para el hueso; el enterramiento bien puede ser contemporáneo con un conjunto de cerámica procedente de un depósito coluvial. El trabajo trata la relación entre esta actividad y otras actividades contemporáneas en otras partes del Glen.

Zusammenfassung

Im Vorfeld von Steinbrucharbeiten in Upper Largie, Kilmartin Glen, Argyll & Bute, wurden zwischen 1982 und 2005 – mit Unterbrechungen – Grabungen von verschiedenen Ausgräbern durchgeführt. Sie lieferten ergiebige Hinweise auf prähistorische Aktivitäten vom Mesolithikum bis in die mittlere Bronzezeit auf einer Schmelzwasserterrasse, die den Rest des Kilmartin-Tales überblickt. Einige Befunde wurden sicherlich zerstört in einer Zeit, als Steine unbeobachtet gebrochen wurden. Mehrere Befunde konnten zudem nicht datiert werden. Mesolithische Aktivitäten werden durch vier Gruben repräsentiert, die wahrscheinlich ein zeitweiliges Lager darstellen. Dies ist der erste Nachweis mesolithischer Aktivitäten im Glen. Sichere und vermutliche neolithische Aktivitäten umfassen die Errichtung und teilweise Brandzerstörung eines mit Pfosten errichteten Cursus. Kupferzeitliche Aktivitäten werden durch ein frühes Bechergrab markiert, das sowohl in der Art seiner Anlage als auch der Auswahl an Beigaben Parallelen in den Niederlanden hat und deshalb die Frage nach der Herkunft des dort Bestatteten aufwirft. Die Terrasse wurde erneut in der frühen Bronzezeit als Bestattungsplatz genutzt, zwischen dem 22. und dem 18. Jahrhundert. Unter den Gräbern ist eines, angelegt neben dem Bechergrab, das ein besonderes Fußgefäß enthielt, welches Merkmale von “Food Vessels” aus Irland und Yorkshire in sich vereint. Drei weitere Bauwerke wurden zu einem oder verschiedenen Zeitpunkten in der ersten Hälfte des zweiten Jahrtausends bc errichtet (die eichenbasierten Datierungen könnten unter einem “Altholz-Effekt” leiden): eine Grube, umgeben von weiteren Gruben oder Pfosten und in ihrer Anlage dem frühen Bechergrab ähnlich; ein aus Holzbalken errichteter Kreis; sowie eine Pfostenreihe. Die jüngste datierbare Aktivität besteht aus einem Grab, das Leichenbrand in einer kübelförmigen Urne (bucket urn) enthielt. Der Leichenbrand wurde nach 1410–1210 bc datiert, so dass das Grab möglicherweise gleichzeitig ist mit einem Keramikensemble aus einem Kolluvium. Der Beitrag diskutiert auch die Beziehungen zwischen dieser und weiteren zeitgleichen Aktivitäten andernorts im Glen.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Prehistoric Society 2010

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