|17 March 2011
Bronze Age burial pots found in Scotland
Two Bronze Age burial pots containing human remains have been found at the base of an Angus standing stone (Scotland) which toppled over during this winter's bad weather.
Both pots - known as collared urns - could be up to 4,000 years old and were typically used in early Bronze age cremation burials. One of the pots is about 4in (10cm) in diameter, and the other is about 8in. Archaeologists were commissioned by Historic Scotland to excavate the ground around the Carlinwell Stone at Airlie, near Kirriemuir prior to raising the 2.1m monolith back into position later this week.
Melanie Johnson, project co-ordinator with CFA Archaeology of Musselburgh and field archaeologist Leigh Garst discovered the pots as they excavated the original socket for the standing stone. "The pots are typical of early Bronze Age cremation burials. People were burned on pyres and their remains gathered, put into pots and buried upside down in a pit," she said.
Ms Johnson said there was 'plenty of bone' inside the pots, which would be enough to determine the gender and age of the person, and if they had illnesses or trauma wounds. "They will be taken to a lab in Edinburgh, and radio-carbon dated," she added.
John Sheriff, an investigator with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland, said it was impossible to date the stone precisely but it is very likely to be Neolithic or Bronze Age. He said: "This goes some way to proving that Carlinwell Stone is a genuine prehistoric standing stone, rather than something put up later. There was a fashion for putting up rubbing stones for cows during the 19th Century to stop them ruining the dykes by pushing against them, and they looked like standing stones, but we can say for sure this is prehistoric because of its great height. Human bones were found at the base of the stone in the early 18th Century, and my hunch is they were also Bronze Age, although it's possible there is no connection."
Soil samples from around the stone's socket will be analysed and any organic material found radio-carbon dated if possible. That would go some way to solving the mystery of whether the stone was erected to mark the graves, or whether the pots were put in place afterwards.
Ancient Monuments Inspector for Historic Scotland Martin Brann said: "It is not uncommon for burials to be found in association with standing stones and stone circles, emphasising the ritual or religious significance of these monuments to prehistoric farming communities. "Prehistoric settlement in the vicinity of Airlie is evident in the form of cropmarks showing on aerial photographs."
After examination and processing by the National Museum in Edinburgh, the pots are likely to end up in Meffan museum, Forfar.
Edited from BBC News, The Press and Journal (9 march 2011)
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