Grave Goods

The Forteviot dagger-grave – one of 28 such graves in Scotland (Baker et al 2004, table 4; Brophy and Noble 2020,191) – remains the richest-appointed Early Bronze Age grave in Perth and Kinross, and one of the richest in Scotland. It may well be the grave of a local leader, whose body was carried ceremoniously to its prestigious resting place. It is not the only high-status grave from the 2200–2000/1950 BC period, however. The Dumglow log-coffin would have underlined the importance of its occupant, for example, and there are other cists with rare, socially-valued grave goods, as follows:

Findspot; MOK and Canmore IDGrave goodsHuman remainsComment; date cal BC at 95.4% probabilityKey references
Drumlanrick (formerly in Perthshire)bronze-bladed flat daggerNo infoFound 1870Anderson 1878, 456; Henshall 1968; Baker et al 2003, table 4
Glenallan Cottages, Doune Road, Keirbronze-bladed flat daggerUnburnt, no detailsFound before 1878; one of four short cists in a gravel moundCroall 1879; Baker et al 2003, table 4
Gairneybank, cist 1 (MPK5639)bronze knife/knife-dagger; unusual small Food Vessel,Unburnt, adult, sex not determinableCist in small ‘flat’ cemetery on a low gravel ridge. Bone: 3470±80 BP (GU-1118, 2019–1544) but most likely to date to 20th or 19th century BC on archaeological groundsCowie and Ritchie 1991; Baker et al 2003, table 4
Letham Quarry, Tibbermuir (MPK2169)bronze knife/knife-daggerpoorly-preserved inhumed remainscist capstone is a reused slab of cupmarked rockColes 1897; Baker et al 2003, table 4
Beech Hill House, Coupar Angus, cist 1 (MPK5042)bone pommel of a (probably bronze) knife/knife-daggertwo deposits of cremated human remains, one a young male adult and the other, a sub-adult of indeterminate sex. Metal staining of the bone of the sub-adult suggests that the knife/knife-dagger had been associated with that individual.sub-rectangular cist. A fragment of calcined bone dated to 3665±45 BP (GrA-19426: 2197–1924)Stevenson 1995; Baker et al 2003, table 4
Near Craigiehall ‘(Perthshire?)’; (No MPK/Canmore entry)V-perforated ‘pulley’ belt ring of cannel coal, plus a V-perforated button of wood (which perished)Unburnt remains: bones ‘were in a state of perfect powder’ but, by analogy with sexed individuals associated with pulley belt rings elsewhere had probably been a man.Old discovery (1805); Some doubt as to whether Craigiehall is actually in PerthshireCallander 1926, 261
Abercairny (MPK1519)parts of a jet spacer-plate necklace and flint knifeunburnt remains of a mature adult female (tentative sex ID)Cist set into a natural knollRideout et al 1987
Easter Essendy cist 1 (MPK5487)jet spacer-plate necklace; lugged Vase Food VesselArtefacts associated with the cremated remains of one of two adults of indeterminable sexBoth individuals were radiocarbon dated, as part of the NMS radiocarbon dating programme: 3710±35 BP (GrA-32131, 2204–1979) and 3630±35 BP (GrA-32133, 2133–1892)Thoms 1980; Sheridan 2006, 205
Almondbank, cist VII (MPK2064)disc-and-fusiform bead necklace of jet and cannel coal; two flint flakesunburnt remains of an adult (unsexed)Bone: 3517±50 BP (SRR-591, 2014–1693); most likely to be 20th or 19th centuryStewart and Barclay 1997, 24–33
Almondbank, cist IX (MPK2064)disc-and-fusiform bead necklace of jet and cannel coal; fine flint knifeNone present in cist; assumed to have been unburnt body Stewart and Barclay 1997, 24–33
Doune (formerly in Perthshire, now Stirling)Miniature stone battle-axehead and two Food Vessels, on small, one normal-sized Unburnt remains of child, 5–9, sex ID’d (through aDNA) as maleBone: 3400±35 BP (SUERC-2869, 1872–1547)Hamilton 1957; McLaren 2004; Olalde et al 2018; Sheridan et al 2018b
Glenhead, Doune (formerly in Perthshire, now Stirling)Miniature stone macehead and Food VesselUnburnt remains of female 15–21Attempts to date the bone frustrated by contamination from consolidantAnderson 1883; Koon and McCulloch 2003; McLaren 2004
Williamston, St Martins (MPK3676)Ribbed bronze bangle/armletUnburnt remains Callander 1919
Cists, probably all dating to between 2200 BC and 1900/1800 BC, containing artefacts that could be described as high-status grave goods

These Early Bronze Age assemblages stand out from their 2200–1900/1800 BC contemporaries. Usually, the only grave good present is a pot (unless perished organic artefacts had been present) or one or two flint artefacts, and often no artefacts have been found in Early Bronze Age graves. The association of high-status grave goods – a miniature battle-axehead and a miniature macehead, respectively – with a child and a teenager or young adult at Doune suggests that high status was ascribed, rather than or as well as achieved, in Early Bronze Age society.

The miniature battle-axehead and small Food Vessel from child’s grave at Doune (McLaren 2004) ©️ Marion O’Neil

There are two cases in Perth and Kinross where pig bones representing joints of pork have been found in Early Bronze Age cists, as a food offering for the deceased on their journey to the Afterlife. These are from Gairneybank cist 3 (MPK5639; Cowie and Ritchie 1991) and Muirhall Farm (Stewart and Barclay 1997, 43–4). Also present in the Muirhall Farm cist were a fine flint knife and, intriguingly (given the inland location of the site) spines of a sea urchin, which may have been deposited as an amulet.

When cremation became the norm, around the 19th century BC, there are fewer expressions of social differentiation in grave form or grave goods. The most common objects found with deposits of calcined bone (other than cinerary urns or accessory vessels) are burnt bone pins and toggles, probably used to fasten a funerary garment or shroud.

Selection of burnt bone pins and toggles

The items that were, exceptionally, deposited along with cremated remains between 1900 BC and 1600/1500 BC include bronze razors, flint barbed-and-tanged arrowheads, bronze awls and beads of faience and bone. Table 4.2 lists some of these, but does not claim to be exhaustive. While bone beads may appear to be relatively humble objects, the fact that they are not more commonly encountered may mean that they, like the other artefacts, were used as a form of social differentiation, perhaps with an implication of special status. At Kilmagadwood, the association of some of these grave goods with children suggests that, just as earlier in the Early Bronze Age, status was ascribed, rather than (or as well as) achieved.

Findspot and Canmore IDGrave goodsContext; associated pottery? Burnt bone pin or toggle present?ID of calcined bones; date cal BC at 95.4% probability; commentReference
Kilmagadwood, Urn 12 (MPK18535)two fragments of one or two burnt bone beads; copper staining on human bone (from former presence of small metal artefact, probably bronze)In inverted Collared Urn, in pit; no pin or toggleAdult, possibly male, and juvenile, 6–10 years, indeterminate sexSheridan et al 2018a
Kilmagadwood, Urn 8 (MPK18535)Fragment of burnt, ‘corrugated’ antler object of indeterminate form and function, plus metal staining on human bone and burnt bone and horn core fragment of young sheep – possibly a food offeringIn inverted Collared Urn, in pit; no pin or toggleChild, 3–6 years, indeterminate sexSheridan et al 2018a
Kilmagadwood, Urn 3 (MPK18535)two fragments of one or two tubular sheet bronze bead/s (Fig [36])In inverted Cordoned Urn, in pit; no pin or toggleYoung adult femaleSheridan et al 2018a
Kilmagadwood, Urn 15 (MPK18535)Bronze tanged razor, burnt; burnt sheep bone fragmentsIn inverted Cordoned Urn, in pit; no pin or toggleAdult, possibly maleSheridan et al 2018a
Kilmagadwood, Urn 20 (MPK18535)Bronze tanged razor and bronze awl, both burntIn inverted Cordoned Urn, in pit; no pin or toggleAdult, possibly female; infant around 18 monthsSheridan et al 2018a
Kilmagadwood, Urn 18 (MPK18535)Burnt segmented faience beadIn Bipartite UrnSub-adult, 7–9 years, indeterminate sexSheridan et al 2018a
Broich Road, Crieff, pit 043 (MPK18471)Bronze tanged razor, unburntIn Cordoned Urn, inverted, in pit. No pin or toggleMature adult male 3352±30 BP (SUERC-46244, 1740–1530)Sheridan 2014a
Broich Road, Crieff, pit 003 (MPK18471)Bronze tanged razor, decorated, unburntUn-urned deposit in pit. No pin or toggle3400±27 BP (SUERC-46237, 1760–1620)Sheridan 2014a
Broich Road, Crieff, pit 031 (MPK18471)Bronze tanged razor, unburnt, deposited in a sheathUn-urned deposit in pit. No pin or toggle3293±28 BP (SUERC-46239, 1640–1490)Sheridan 2014a
Broich Road, Crieff, pit 10 (MPK18471)Set of seven fine flint barbed-and-tanged arrowheads, unburntHuman remains probably deposited in a bag, in a pit. No pin or toggle Clarke 2013
Broich Road, Crieff, oval deposit <18> (MPK18471)Burnt bone bead, oblateOval deposit of cremated remains, not in pit. No pin or toggle Sheridan 2014b
Shanwell (MPK1816)Tanged bronze razor, decorated, unburntFrom deposit of calcined human bones in a pit in a small cemetery that also contained deposits in Cordoned Urns. No pin or toggle Anderson 1885
Haugh of Grandtully, pit 1 (MPK6035)Fine leaf-shaped, bifacially-flaked flint point, burntIn inverted Collared Urn in a pit. Heat-affected (but not calcined) bone pin presentRemains of three sub-adults, 5–12. Date of 3220±100 BP obtained in 1980s, but is from Gakusan laboratory and is suspect. Material dated is not specifiedSimpson and Coles 1990
Haugh of Grandtully, pit 33 (MPK6035)Set of five flint barbed-and-tanged arrowheads, burntUn-urned deposit in pit, its upper part stone-linedAdult, ‘possibly female’ (but would need to be re-assessed osteologically, as arrowheads are normally a male association)Simpson and Coles 1990
Examples of artefacts (other than cinerary urns, accessory vessels, burnt pins and toggles of bone or antler and flint flakes) found with deposits of cremated human remains dating to between 1900 BC and 1500 BC in Perth and Kinross. For more details, see Sheridan et al 2018a
Engraving of decorated tanged razor from Shanwell (Anderson 1885)