Scheduled Monument

Loch Ailsh, chambered cairn 920m SE of StrathseasgaichSM4043

Status: Designated

Documents

Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (https://portal.historicenvironment.scot/termsandconditions).

The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.

Summary

Date Added
23/12/1977
Last Date Amended
23/11/2018
Supplementary Information Updated
04/02/2019
Type
Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn
Local Authority
Highland
Parish
Kincardine (Highland)
NGR
NC 31149 9801
Coordinates
231149, 909801

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a chambered cairn, dating to the Neolithic period, probably built and in use between around 4000BC and 2500BC. It is visible as a substantial heather-covered stony mound measuring 2.3m in height and around 16.4m southeast-northwest and 13.2m transversely. The monument is located on level and open, peat covered moorland at around 165m above sea level.                                                                                 

Much of the cairn material from the southeast quadrant of the cairn has been cleared and appears to have been deposited immediately to the south. The central chamber has been exposed and is evidenced by large orthostats that form the chamber walls within the body of the cairn mound. The likely position of the entrance passage is at the southeast.

The scheduled area is circular, centred on the cairn, with a diameter of 30m. It includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is a chambered cairn which survives as a stone-built mound with the structural orthostats of the central chamber visible. Although some of the upper cairn material has been removed, the monument stands close to its original scale and appearance. The entrance passage and burial chamber can be identified and it is likely that other features survive within the body of the cairn. There is good potential for the survival of archaeological remains, including human burials, artefacts and environmental remains such as pollen and charcoal, within, beneath and around the upstanding structure of the cairn. The archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the date of the monument, ritual and funerary practices, and the structure of Neolithic society. Any artefacts and environmental material would enhance understanding of contemporary economy, land-use and environment.

Dating evidence from chambered cairns elsewhere demonstrates that they were constructed and in use between around 4000BC and 2500 BC. They were used for communal burial and ritual, and excavations often reveal evidence of complex development sequences. Therefore the cairn may have been in use for a long period of time. Scientific study of the cairn's form and construction techniques compared with other chambered cairns would enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site and of chambered cairns in general.

Contextual Characteristics

Chambered cairns are found throughout Scotland, with a concentration in the north and west. The example at Loch Ailsh is important as an upstanding, well-preserved example of substantial scale. It is part of a wider group of chambered cairns in Glen Oykel including, all within around 1.2km to 1.4km of Loch Ailsh cairn; Strathseasgaich, chambered cairn 700m SW of (scheduled monument SM4044; Canmore ID 4750), Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn, cairn and long mound E of (scheduled monument SM4564; Canmore ID 4741), Cnoc Chaornaidh, cairn 930m NW of (scheduled monument SM4042; Canmore ID 4724). The proximity of these burial monuments can give important insights into the Neolithic landscape and add to our understanding of social organisation, land division and land-use. The monument has the potential to enhance our understanding of the nature and development of Neolithic monumentality and burial, the nature of belief systems, ceremonial and burial practices.

Chambered cairns are found in a variety of locations. Some are placed in conspicuous locations within the landscape, such as on the summits of hills or on the shoulders of hills, perhaps to be seen on a skyline or otherwise in profile. Others are found in less conspicuous locations, for example on valley floors. Relationships to routeways and/or other ritual sites, locations near to good upland pasture and views over specific areas of land may also have had significance. The chambered cairn at Loch Ailsh is positioned on a level, open moorland, just above the river. It occupies a valley floor position and is has extensive views of the surrounding area.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this site's national importance.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the design and construction of burial monuments, the nature of burial and ritual practices and their significance in Neolithic society. The chambered cairn is an impressive monument which retains its field characteristics and can be compared with other chambered cairns that survive in the vicinity. As such it can significantly enhance our understanding of Neolithic society and economy, as well as the nature of belief systems, burial and ceremonial practices. It would have been an important component of the wider prehistoric landscape of settlement, agriculture and ritual and would have been a prominent part of the prehistoric landscape. Chambered cairns are one of our main sources of information for the Neolithic in Scotland and so are an important element in our understanding of the nature of Scotland's prehistoric society and landscape. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the meaning and importance of death and burial, and the placing of cairns within the landscape in the Neolithic period in northern Scotland and further afield.

References

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 4735 (accessed on 03/10/2018).

Highland Historic Environment Record Reference: MHG7402 (accessed on 03/10/2018).

Henshall, A S. (1963). The chambered tombs of Scotland, vol. 1. Edinburgh. p. 350.

HER/SMR Reference

  • https://her.highland.gov.uk/Monument/MHG7402

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

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Find out more about scheduling and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot/advice-and-support. You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at designations@hes.scot.

Images

Loch Ailsh, chambered cairn, looking northwest, during daytime.
Loch Ailsh, chambered cairn, detail of exposed chamber orthostat, looking northeast, during daytime.

Printed: 24/10/2021 14:20