5.4.2 Funerary Monuments

The evidence for Iron Age burial is extremely limited and a research challenge for both identifying sites and characterising funerary practices. Elsewhere in Britain and Ireland, the dominant practice was probably excarnation, with the occasional inhumation, and this may also have been the case in Perth and Kinross. The vast majority of potential sites are unexcavated cists or barrows recorded as cropmarks. One of the few burials excavated, in 1970, came from an oval pit at Castle Menzies Home Farm near Weem and while not radiocarbon dated, an Iron Age date is probable, given the pottery and quern stones recovered from associated pits (MPK1026; Clark 1970). 

Through comparison with examples from Stirling and Angus, it has been suggested the paucity of confirmed sites could in part result from misidentification. In such cases Bronze Age dates are assumed for unexcavated round barrows and oval cists, and early medieval dates presumed for square barrows or burials which lack grave goods (Davies 2006, 342–9). The complexity of practice is further illustrated from further afield in Scotland, where Iron Age burials elect to reuse older prehistoric sites, as at Waulkmill, Aberdeenshire (Clarke et al 2016). Given the lack of an identifiable Iron Age burial tradition for Scotland and the similarities in late prehistoric to early historic funerary monument forms, it is evident that the region’s sizeable record of undated funerary remains from within this time span cannot be confidently considered Iron Age or otherwise without further investigation. 

Digital plan of an excavation site, with features highlighted in colour. A large orange, irregular feature dominates the pictiure, with a smaller, round, orange feature to the left, and a smaller, oval and purple feature beside that.
Plan of Waulkmill with Iron Age burial in purple ©️ HES

Significantly, human remains from the early excavation of the Women’s Knowe round barrow from Inchtuthil near Spittalfield (MPK6943; Abercromby 1902) were recently radiocarbon dated; they provide valuable insight into otherwise elusive Iron Age funerary practices in the area (Winlow 2010).  The extended inhumation, which was preserved beneath a stepped circular earthen mound with a surrounding ditch, is potentially contemporary with Roman activity since it is radiocarbon dated to 20 BC–AD 130 (Winlow 2010, 51).  Winlow suggest that while burial practice may be difficult to deifne without further radiocarbon dating, there appears to be a broad pattern in burial practice, which spanned generations. This practice was based on extended inhumation with variations in construction, monumentality and associated material culture. For example, there were differences in how cists were constructed, whether a cairn or barrow was raised and whether there were grave goods (Winlow 2010, 55; Mitchell et al 2020).