The monument comprises a burial cairn of probable Bronze-Age date and part of a consumption dyke of post-medieval date. It survives as a prominent circular mound of turf- and gorse-covered loose stones and two sections of adjoining low dyke, each with rubble infill. The cairn and dyke are located on open recreational ground on a low ridge, running NE-SW and overlooking Nigg bay, approximately 1.5km inland from the coast.
The cairn measures approximately 18m in diameter at its widest and is approximately 3m high. It is roughly circular in plan and is partly obscured (in its centre and eastern side) by the removal of stones and overgrown whin and gorse bushes. The two sections of consumption dyke, adjoining the NE and SW quadrants of the cairn, are each approximately 4m wide, 5m long and 1.5m high. They are each formed by two inwards-leaning retaining walls (built using selectively-sized and graded stones) and joined by a rubble core. These sections are part of a longer, isolated consumption dyke whose overall length is roughly 50m.
The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, centred on the cairn, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence and a ventilation stack with a concrete base, to allow for their maintenance.
Statement of National Importance
The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:
This cairn survives with the majority of its structural detail intact. It is likely to seal not only one or more burials and possible grave goods but also the prehistoric land surface that was present when the cairn was first built. The monument therefore has the potential to tell us about the architecture of these monuments, the practice of burial and ritual at the time, and the contemporary environmental conditions. The sections of consumption dyke abutting the cairn are a well-preserved example of 19th-century agricultural improvement works. Their style and form reflect the skill of those who built them and they act as a signature of the estate in which they were built. They have the potential to tell us about the changing nature of agriculture and land improvements here.
The cairn belongs to a large and widespread group of prehistoric burial monuments, one of around nearly known 200 examples in the Strathdon area. Along with six other broadly contemporary cairns surrounding Tullos Hill, it forms a small cemetery that has extensive seaward views over Nigg Bay and the North Sea. Other prehistoric structures and remains here suggest that the ridge on which the cairn sits was significant not just for death and burial during the Bronze Age but also for settlement, agriculture and associated activities. The cairn can therefore help us understand more about the nature of Bronze-Age society and how funerary practice integrated with other aspects of prehistoric life.
The presence of substantial, later clearance works, in the form of 19th-century consumption dykes, indicates another chapter of land use here, where agricultural improvements allowed for the spread of cultivation and expansion of farming generally. Their appearance is in marked contrast to previous clearance works (usually heaped stones in the corner of existing field boundaries) and marks the formal laying out of field units. These two sections of the same consumption dyke are a direct result of land improvements and, interestingly, they have incorporated the cairn into their length. There is a local concentration of well-preserved consumption dykes on Tullos hill and more than 100 sections of consumption dyke are known about in NE Scotland overall. Despite being isolated from other boundary features, it is possible that they once functioned to enclose a farmed area, along with similar dyking. Their design and construction (typically being wider at their base than their original height) reflects a specific, NE tradition of field clearance. Being in an area of Scotland that helped to pioneer agricultural improvement, some of these dykes may date to the early 18th century rather than the more common 19th-century examples. They can therefore tell us about changes in land management and the ways in which these boundary features changed the landscape character of Eastern Strathdon.
The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, in particular prehistoric burial architecture and the agricultural improvements of the 18th and 19th centuries. Comparison of this burial monument with others can reveal more about the nature of Bronze-Age burial practice and the role these monuments played in prehistoric life and death. The study of the consumption dykes can help us understand more about the origins of modern farming, the division of land parcels and the development of boundary features in NE Scotland. The loss of the monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of prehistoric activity, the incorporation of these monuments into later land use and the development of modern farming.
RCAHMS records the monument as NJ90SE 123.
Aberdeen City Council Archaeological Unit 2006, THE CHEERFUL VASLE: EXPLORING THE PAST OF BALNAGASK, TULLOS AND TORRY, Aberdeen: Aberdeen City Council.
RCAHMS 2007, IN THE SHADOW OF BENNACHIE: THE FIELD ARCHAEOLOGY OF DONSIDE, ABERDEENSHIRE, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
Withrington D J and Grant I R eds. 1982, THE STATISTICAL ACCOUNT OF SCOTLAND. VOL XIV. KINCARDINESHIRE AND SOUTH AND WEST ABERDEENSHIRE, Wakefield: E P Publishing Ltd.
About Scheduled Monuments
Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for the designation of buildings, monuments, gardens and designed landscapes and historic battlefields. We also advise Scottish Ministers on the designation of historic marine protected areas.
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There are no images available for this record, you may want to check Canmore for images relating to Loirston Country Park, cairn and dyke 220m NE of Cat Cairn
There are no images available for this record.
Printed: 18/11/2018 22:29