Statement of National Importance
The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:
The monument is a chambered cairn of the Orkney Cromarty group, which survives as a substantial stone-built structure. Although significant stone robbing has taken place, this has not disturbed the overall plan of the monument. There is visible evidence of a substantial kerb, east-southeast facing passage, and internal chamber. 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.
Chambered cairns are found throughout Scotland, with a concentration in the north and west. The example at Cnoc Chaornaidh is important as an upstanding and well-preserved example. It is part of a wider group of chambered cairns in the Glen Oykel area that are located around Cnoc Chaornaidh, including Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn 560m WSW of (SM4023; Canmore ID 4738), Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn 570m SW of (SM4022; Canmore ID 4739), Allt Eileag, chambered cairn 790m SE of Cnoc Chaornaidh (SM4046; Canmore ID 4740) and Garbh Ath Chaoruinn, chambered cairn 1km ENE of Cnoc Chaornaidh (SM13706; Canmore ID 4741). 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 Cnoc Chaornaidh is positioned on a ridge on the west slope of Cnoc Chaornaidh. It has been built on a low glacial mound, which will have enhanced the height of the cairn and increased its prominence. The cairn has extensive views to the south and southeast and overlooks the north bank of the Allt Eileag, a tributary of the River Oykel.
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.