Issue: An early Bronze Age unenclosed cremation cemetery and Mesolithic pit at Skilmafilly, near Maud, Aberdeenshire

Publication Type
Abstract An unenclosed Early Bronze Age cremation cemetery was excavated by CFA Archaeology Ltd (CFA) during a watching brief associated with the construction of a natural gas pipeline from St Fergus to Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, in the summer of 2001. The cremation cemetery contained 41 pits, 29 of which contained cremated human bone, and 11 of these were associated with Collared or Cordoned Urns. The cremations have been radiocarbon dated, through a combination of charcoal and bone apatite, to 2040 to 1500 BC, and the cemetery is the most comprehensively dated in Britain of this period. A variety of grave goods were recovered, including a pair of Golden Eagle talons and a flint foliate knife. A large Mesolithic pit was found in the same location as the cremation pits and was dated to 4510-3970 BC.
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Author Melanie Johnson
Kirsty Cameron
Issue Editor Helen Bleck
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Historic Scotland
Archaeology Data Service
Other Person/Org Adam Jackson (Author contributing)
Year of Publication 2012
Volume 53
Source DigitalBorn
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Abstract
1
An unenclosed Early Bronze Age cremation cemetery was excavated by CFA Archaeology Ltd (CFA) during a watching brief associated with the construction of a natural gas pipeline from St Fergus to Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, in the summer of 2001. The cremation cemetery contained 41 pits, 29 of which contained cremated human bone, and 11 of these were associated with Collared or Cordoned Urns. The cremations have been radiocarbon dated, through a combination of charcoal and bone apatite, to 2040 to 1500 BC, and the cemetery is the most comprehensively dated in Britain of this period. A variety of grave goods were recovered, including a pair of Golden Eagle talons and a flint foliate knife. A large Mesolithic pit was found in the same location as the cremation pits and was dated to 4510-3970 BC.
2 - 3
Excavation took place in 2001 on the route of the St Fergus to Aberdeen gas pipeline. The cemetery was discovered during a watching brief on topsoil stripping of the pipeline easement and was subsequently fully excavated. Other discoveries included a ring ditch of uncertain date, three large pits of Late Neolithic or early Bronze Age date and a chipped stone scatter. Details of these are contained in the site archive.
Melanie Johnson
Kathleen McSweeney
4 - 17
A large pit measuring 3.2 m in diameter was radiocarbon dated to the Mesolithic. Charcoal of oak, birch and hazel was identified. The cremation cemetery comprised 41 circular and oval pits, 29 of which contained cremated bone. There were 11 urns of the Collared and Cordoned variety. Each of the pits is described in detail and specialist data on the pottery, human bone and radiocarbon dates is incorporated.
Melanie Johnson
Dawn McLaren
Torben Bjarke Ballin
Kathleen McSweeney
18 - 29
Specialist reports on pottery, human bone, lithics, worked bone and antler, and a perforated stone disc. Nine of the urns are collared and two are cordoned. The distribution of cordoned urns is largely limited to Scotland and Ireland. Cremated bone from 31 contexts represented a minimum of 35 individuals, including men, women and children. Twenty three lithics including a very fine foliate knife were found. The latter is thought to have been imported from a more southerly source. Otherwise, most of the flint is debitage and badly burnt. Bone objects included pins and toggles while a perforated stone disc has no immediate parallels.
Catherine Smith
Mhairi Hastie
Lucy Verrill
30 - 37
Two talons and one bone fragment of golden eagle were associated with a child cremation. Charcoal from the Mesolithic pit comprised oak, birch and hazel. Charcoal from cremation deposits was mainly oak followed by birch, hazel, and traces of alder. Magnetic susceptibility was used to look for pyre sites and identified a possible area of former pyre activity where efforts were made to clear the debris soon after the cremation process was complete.
38 - 41
A total of 57 dates were obtained from charcoal and human bone. Three Mesolithic dates came from the large pit. The remainder were from the cremation burials. With the exception of two slightly earlier dates which may have come from old charcoal they were all early Bronze Age.
42 - 48
The various categories of evidence already reported are brought together in a discussion of the cremation rite. The evidence indicates that early Bronze Age cremations were a complex mixture of funerary rites which hint at a complex social structure or set of beliefs, taboos and societal norms. It is currently the most comprehensively dated cremation cemetery in Britain and was in use from 2040-1500 BC.
49
50 - 53