Issue: The excavation of a mound and three cist burials at Ferndall, Rendall, Orkney

Publication Type
Abstract As part of the Historic Scotland Human Remains Call Off Contract, Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD) undertook an archaeological excavation of an artificial mound and associated cists containing human remains of mid-Bronze Age date, at Ferndale, Rendall, Orkney. The excavation identified the presence of two cists containing cremation burials (cist 004 and cist 010), and a third that contained a poorly preserved inhumation (cist 003). Cists 004 and 010 would appear to be related to an artificially created mound, and parallel a number of similar 'barrow' sites from Orkney. Cist 004 contained an inhumation and was of differing construction. It would appear to relate to a different phase and tradition of cist burials. Analysis of skeletal material from cist 004 identified the remains of an older adult male, a female of between 18 and 30 years of age and an infant of 15 months. The adult male was found to have suffered from a bone infection of the femur and showed evidence of poor dental health. The female had suffered from iron deficiency anaemia. The preservation of skeletal material in cists 010 and 003 allowed only the identification of a single adult inhumation of unknown age and sex from each cist. The individuals from cists 004 and 010 had been cremated shortly after death, and analysis of associated soil residues suggests that their remains were subsequently picked from the pyre and washed. Radiocarbon dates from the cremated remains from cists 004 and 010 place the use of these two cists and construction of the associated mound in the first quarter of the second millennium BC. These dates are comparable to other dated cist burials in artificial mounds from Orkney, although it would appear to be one of the earlier sites in the currently available list of dates. Regrettably, a date could not be obtained from the poorly preserved inhumation from cist 003.
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Author Paul R J Duffy
Editor Debra Barrie
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Other Person/Org Robert S Will (Author contributing)
Caitlin Evans (Author contributing)
Jennifer J Miller (Author contributing)
Susan Ramsey (Author contributing)
Gavin MacGregor (Author contributing)
Tony Pollard (Author contributing)
Year of Publication 2005
Volume 16
ISBN 0-903903-85-7
Source DigitalBorn
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Abstract
Robert S Will
Christopher Evans
0
Gavin MacGregor
0
Tony Pollard
0
J Miller
Susan Ramsay
0
1 - 2
As part of the Historic Scotland Human Remains Call Off Contract, Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD) undertook an archaeological excavation of an artificial mound and associated cists containing human remains of mid-Bronze Age date, at Ferndale, Rendall, Orkney. The excavation� identified the presence of two cists containing cremation burials (cist 004 and cist 010), and a third that contained a poorly preserved inhumation (cist 003). Cists 004 and 010 would appear to be related to an artificially created mound, and parallel a number of similar 'barrow' sites from Orkney. Cist 004 contained an inhumation and was of differing construction. It would appear to relate to a different phase and tradition of cist burials. Analysis of skeletal material from cist 004 identified the remains of an older adult male, a female of between 18 and 30 years of age and an infant of 15 months. The adult male was found to have suffered from a bone infection of the femur and showed evidence of poor dental health. The female had suffered from iron deficiency anaemia. The preservation of skeletal material in cists 010 and 003 allowed only the identification of a single adult inhumation of unknown age and sex from each cist. The individuals from cists 004 and 010 had been cremated shortly after death, and analysis of associated soil residues suggests that their remains were subsequently picked from the pyre and washed. Radiocarbon dates from the cremated remains from cists 004 and 010 place the use of these two cists and construction of the associated mound in the first quarter of the second millennium BC. These dates are comparable to other dated cist burials in artificial mounds from Orkney, although it would appear to be one of the earlier sites in the currently available list of dates. Regrettably, a date could not be obtained from the poorly preserved inhumation from cist 003.
Paul R J Duffy
3
This sections presents details of the site location, topography and the circumstances of discovery.
Robert S Will
Caitlin Evans
4 - 6
This section considers aims, objectives and methodology and includes a detailed archaeological description.
Paul R J Duffy
7 - 8
Specialist report on the cremated remains and the inhumations. A minimum of three individuals were represented by the cremated bone and there were two inhumations.
Jennifer J Miller
Susan Ramsay
9
The carbonised assemblage was sparse but included several charcoal types. In addition, occasional fragments of carbonised brown seaweed and cereal grains including six-row barley and hazel were identified.
Tony Pollard
10
One small leaf-shaped point or arrowhead and two waste flakes were recovered from secondary contexts within the redeposited soils around and over the cists.
Gavin MacGregor
11 - 12
One of the stones packing the cist slab showed decoration on three of its surfaces. The decoration comprised a rectangle, 11 fine incised lines which had the appearance of a roughly executed series of lozenges or triangles, and a further two broad incised lines.
Paul R J Duffy
13
A quantity of fuel ash slag (or cramp) was recovered from both cists containing cremations. The nature of this material remains enigmatic and is not fully understood.
Paul R J Duffy
14
The two samples point to a secure date in the first quarter of the second millennium BC. This would appear to fit broadly with the limited dating evidence available from cists containing cremations in Orkney, although the site would appear to be amongst the earlier examples in this tradition.
Paul R J Duffy
15 - 17
The excavations at Ferndale have identified a complex of three cists, two of which were securely associated with a barrow and contained cremated human remains. Dates obtained from cremated bone from these cists demonstrate that the occupants of the cists died in the first quarter of the second millennium BC; as such, the mound and cists fit into an increasingly well-defined Orcadian tradition of cist burials covered by artificial mounds, although this is an apparently early example. The third cist differs in several important respects from the other two, and indeed from the majority of excavated cists in Orkney.
18
Three possible reconstructions of the overall chronology of the site are offered although none can be fully substantiated from the excavation results, or from wider Orcadian parallels.
19
20
Paul R J Duffy
As part of the Historic Scotland Human Remains Call Off Contract, an archaeological excavation was undertaken of an artificial mound and associated cists containing human remains of mid-Bronze Age date, at Ferndale, Rendall, Orkney. The excavation identified the presence of two cists containing cremation burials (cist 004 and 010), and a third that contained a poorly preserved inhumation (cist 003). Cists 004 and 010 would appear to be related to an artificially created mound, and parallel a number of similar `barrow' sites from Orkney. Cist 003 contained an inhumation and was of differing construction. it would appear to relate to a different phase and tradition of cist burials. Analysis of skeletal material from cist 004 identified the remains of an older adult male, a female of between 18 and 30 years of age and an infant of 15 months. The adult male was found to have suffered from a bone infection of the femur and showed evidence of poor dental health. The female had suffered from iron deficiency anaemia. The preservation of skeletal material from cists 010 and 003 allowed the identification of a single adult inhumation of unknown age and sex from each cist. The individuals from cists 004 and 010 had been cremated shortly after death, and analysis of associated soil residues suggests that their remains were subsequently picked from the pyre and washed. Radiocarbon dates from the cremated remains from cists 004 and 010 place the use of these two cists and construction of the associated mound in the first quarter of the second millennium BC. These dates are comparable to other dated cist burials in artificial mounds from Orkney, although it would appear to be one of the earlier sites in the currently available list of dates. A date could not be obtained for the poorly preserved inhumation from cist 003. Includes