The monument comprises the remains of a cairn that was built probably between 3000 and 1000 BC in the late Neolithic or Bronze Age, and a cup-marked stone dating probably to the Neolithic period. The cairn is visible as a prominent turf-covered earth mound, situated on a natural hillock in improved pasture at around 255m above sea level.
The upstanding remains of the cairn measure around 25m in diameter and stand up to 2m high on the SE side. The cairn is generally well-preserved but there is evidence of areas of excavation undertaken in antiquity, the most significant being in the SW quadrant and into the centre. These 19th-century excavations revealed several burials in urns. A modern stone cairn, measuring around 2.5m across, is located on the top of the prehistoric cairn. The cup-marked stone is located around 65m to the north and comprises a natural boulder of roughly square plan, measuring about 1m by 1m and 1m high. On the flat top of the boulder is a single round cup mark, measuring about 4 cm across and more than 1 cm deep.
The areas to be scheduled are circular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around each of them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.
Statement of National Importance
The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:
Excavation suggests that many round cairns were used to cover and mark human burials in the late Neolithic or Bronze Age and date most commonly from the late third millennium BC to the early second millennium BC. Excavations in antiquity on this monument uncovered several urns filled with calcined bones and sticks. The excavation of similar mounds elsewhere in SW Scotland shows that cairns often incorporate or overlie graves or pits containing cist settings, skeletal remains in the form of cremations or inhumations, and pottery and flint objects, and comparable remains may exist beneath this cairn. Large areas of the cairn appear undisturbed and there is a high potential for the preservation of further remains within, beneath and around the monument. These deposits can help us understand more about the practice and significance of burial and commemorating the dead at specific points in prehistory. They may also help us to understand the changing structure of society in the area.
The size of the cairn and the quantity of remains already found within it could mean that it is the burial site of a particularly important individual with the potential for multiple burials inserted into the monument after its first 'use'. In addition, the cairn is likely to overlie and seal a buried land surface that could provide evidence of the immediate environment before and when the monument was constructed. Botanical remains, including pollen or charred plant material, may also survive within archaeological deposits deriving from the construction and use of the cairn. This evidence can help us to build up a picture of climate, vegetation and agriculture in the area.
The cup-marked stone is an example of a Neolithic or Bronze Age ritual feature and is likely to pre-date the cairn. The boulder is probably a glacial erratic and has a regular form, with a flat top and smooth surfaces. Cup marks are decorative circular depressions carved into standing stones, outcrops of bedrock or boulders, and are sometimes found arranged in patterns with other motifs. They date to the Neolithic period, around 4500 years ago. The cup mark would have been formed through pecking, using a hammerstone to chip away small fragments of the boulder. The monument is in a good state of preservation with the mark clearly defined and visible.
The monument has an inherent potential to inform our understanding of the creation of rock art in prehistory and the possible relationship between such ritual monuments and burial structures like the cairn. It has the capacity to add to our knowledge of why and how such marks were made and what they may have meant. The monument has the potential to inform our knowledge of prehistoric ritual practices.
The cairn is located on a natural hillock in a prominent landscape position at 255m above sea level. It is visible on the skyline from the surrounding area and is a notable landmark.
This cairn belongs to a diverse group of up to 86 known or possible cairns in the former county of Renfrewshire, including some that have been destroyed by modern land use since they were recorded. The majority lie between 200m and 300m above sea level on the NE fringe of the uplands that define the southern edge of the Clyde Valley. This example is one of a group in the south-east of the area, in the moorland to the west of Eaglesham and south of Paisley. The intensive use of the lowlands for agriculture, housing and industry, as well as the activities of archaeological researchers, have influenced the distribution pattern we see today and it seems certain that cairns would originally have been a feature of the lowlands as well as the uplands. Cairns seem to be positioned for visibility both to and from the site. They tend to be located on hill tops, false crests and ridges and are generally inter-visible. In this case the monument is inter-visible with the remains of another large cairn situated 385m to the SSW. Excavation in antiquity at this second cairn revealed several cist burials. The relationship between these two prominent cairns, in close proximity but with different burial traditions, is important and has the potential to further our understanding of burial practice and society of this period. Their position and significance in relation to contemporary agricultural land and settlement merits future detailed analysis.
The monument can also be compared with excavated examples further afield, such as the cairn at East Green Farm, Kilmacolm, where at least two Bronze Age funerary urns were found, and that at South Mound of Houston, where the cairn covered a cist grave containing cremated human bone, a flint knife and a Bronze Age food vessel. Cairns were often long-lived foci of religious or funerary activity and have the potential to contain secondary burials. This longevity is demonstrated at South Mound of Houston, where the cairn re-used the location of a group of Neolithic pits and lay close to a probable cist cemetery. This contextual information confirms the potential of the cairn to retain complex remains of multiple burials, possibly of different phases. Cairns have the potential to further our understanding not just of funerary site location and practice, but also of the structure of early prehistoric society and economy.
Examples of cup-marked stones rarely exist in isolation, and it has been recognised that each individual group of rock carvings forms a small part of a wider coherent system distributed along or near to the tops of valley systems, where they mark out routeways through the landscape. In this instance, two further examples, each of several cup marks, have been recorded 2.4km to the north-west. The re-use of cup-marked rocks in later monuments is a common occurrence and the possibility exists that this particular example has been relocated close to the cairn or that the cairn was positioned in relation to the cup-marked stone.
Across Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire and Inverclyde, 31 examples of cup-marked stones have been recorded, mostly in rural areas. Many of the examples are located relatively close to the course of the River Gryfe, potentially an earlier routeway, and this possible connection would benefit from further investigation. Another theory is that rock art is often found at the junction of farming land and upland areas and marks the boundary between domesticated and wild landscapes.
The monument has the capacity to further our understanding of the distribution of such sites within the landscape and how they may relate to one another and to other contemporary monuments.
Although not specifically marked on early Ordnance Surveys a note in the vicinity states 'several urns containing calcined human remains found here under a tumulus'. Later maps place the location of this event 180m to the ENE. This may be an error as no tumulus is found at this location and it is likely instead to refer to this monument.
The cairn was known locally as 'Scotts Tourie' (Scotts Tower).
This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, particularly the design and construction of burial monuments, the nature of burial practices and their significance in prehistoric and later society. Skeletal remains and artefacts from cairns can also enhance our knowledge about wider prehistoric society, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. This monument is particularly valuable because of its impressive size and its proximity to a cairn of similar dimensions. It also has the specific potential to inform our understanding of cup-marked stones and their ritual significance and the potential relationships between such monuments. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape and the meaning and importance of ritual, death and burial in prehistoric life.