Aberdour, Fife

Cairn (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 19 85

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 50809

Archaeology & History

Nothing seems to known of the whereabouts of an old prehistoric cairn, positioned on one of the hills in Aberdour parish.  It was described in the Old Statistical Account of the region around 1791, and may have been on the place known as White Law on the northern edge of the town, now built over.  The account told:

“Not far from the village of Aberdour, on a flat on the top of a hill, there is one of those cairns or tumuli so frequently met with in Scotland. The farmer on whose farm it is situated, when carrying away stones some years ago, discovered a stone coffin in which were found the skeleton of a man, the head of a spear made of copper, with the copper nails by which it had been fixed to the shaft, and a piece of clear substance, like amber, supposed to have been an amulet. The coffin, with a great part of the cairn still remain. The tumulus has been conical, the coffin being exactly in the centre of the base, from which to the circumference, it measures 20 paces. The height cannot now be ascertained. There have been found in the same cairn several earthen vessels containing human bones. The vessels were flat, narrower at the bottom than top, and without any covering. The farmer digging in the same field, in another place, found such a quantity of human bones that he was obliged to desist.”

The finding of ‘copper’ spearheads in the tomb indicates either a Bronze Age or Iron Age period.  The brilliant Audrey Henshall (1965) thought the metal remains were more probably bronze.  An exploration of the field-names of the area might prove useful in helping to locate the whereabouts of this cairn.


  1. Henshall, A.S. & Wallace, J.C., “A Bronze Age cist burial at Masterton, Pitreavie, Fife”, in Proceedings of the Society Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 96, 1965.
  2. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Fife, Kinross, and Clackmannan, HMSO: Edinburgh 1933.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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