Case Study 7: Carnassarie Farm Survey

Roddy Regan, Kilmartin Museum

Following the results of a programme of survey work, undertaken by Kilmartin Museum for the Forestry Commission prior to 2007, it became apparent that a comprehensive walkover survey over targeted landscapes had a high potential to add to our existing knowledge of the archaeology around Kilmartin Glen.

Funding from the Dalriada Project enabled Kilmartin Museum to undertake a programme of research which aimed to involve the local community in a series of projects including walkover survey and excavation. One of the initial projects was the survey of Carnassarie Farm and Ormaig which took place in April-May 2007 and the full report is available on the Kilmartin Museum website (Regan 2007).

Figure 15: Location of identified sites, Carnassarie ©Kilmartin Museum

Carnassarie Farm (centred NM 83500 02000) is situated to the north west of Kilmartin village and covers approximately 1,200 acres of mainly sheep grazed hillside. The survey perhaps exceeded our initial expectations of what still might be ‘out there’ the team recording over 240 sites, the majority of which were previously unknown (Figure 15).

The discovery of probable burial monuments and ten previously unrecorded rock-art sites, along with the presence of a saddle quern, added an upland dimension to the story of prehistoric activity in Kilmartin Glen.

Aside from the Prehistoric period, the work also highlighted the presence of fairly extensive, but dispersed settlement, on the eastern slopes of Sron an Tighe Dhuibh. In all, 85 individual structures were recorded, these differing in size and form. While some of the larger rectangular structures may indicate a late medieval or post-medieval date, others given their rounded ends or sub circular shape, are likely to be earlier in origin.

This initial survey work has led to further research work being undertaken by Kilmartin Museum in the same area, with targeted excavations undertaken at the rock art site of Ormaig and on an artificial ‘platform’ (a probable roundhouse site) which returned a date of between 380 BC and 190BC (Ellis and Webb 2007, Ellis 2008).

In 2015 the Museum also undertook an excavation on some structures within the deserted township of Carnassarie Mor, which showed that the excavated buildings were last occupied in the 18th century (Regan 2015).

Figure 16: Volunteers taking a tea break on one of the possible burial cairns identified © Kilmartin Museum

Recently, two burial cists have also been discovered by the owner of the Carnassarie Farm and subsequently excavated by Kilmartin Museum, with one cist containing a tripartite food vessel, its small size indicating it may have been for a child (Regan 2013, Regan 2016). Kilmartin Museum, with a group of archaeological apprentices, also confirmed the remains of what is extremely likely to be the remains of an unknown, but much denuded, dun. Rock art sites also continue to come to light within the farm, with two more recorded since 2015. This now makes the concentration of rock art at Carnassarie perhaps the highest in Britain, possibly reflecting its important position at the junction of three route-ways into Kilmartin Glen.

All the projects have involved close work with the local community, volunteers (Figure 16), schools and other youth groups without whom the results of any research would have been greatly diminished.


  • Ellis, C and Webb, S 2007 Excavations at Ormaig Cup and ring marked rock art site in Argyll Kilmartin Museum Report.
  • Ellis, C 2008 Carnassarie Excavation, Dalriada Project Data Structure Report.
  • Regan, R 2007 Carnassarie Farm, Archaeological Walkover Survey Kilmartin Museum Report.
  • Regan, R 2013 Carnassarie Cist, Argyll, an Archaeological Excavation Kilmartin Museum Report.
  • Regan, R 2015 Carnassarie Mor, Argyll, An Archaeological Excavation Kilmartin Museum Report.
  • Regan, R 2016 Carnassarie Cist II, Argyll, an Archaeological Excavation Kilmartin Museum Report.

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