Hut Circles: OS Grid Reference – NN 90591 41247 — NEW FIND
Take the same directions to reach the giant Carn Ban prehistoric tomb. Follow the track past the tomb further onto the moorland until you reach a small wooden bridge over the small burn. From here, walk straight north off-path onto the moor for 100 yards and a small rise in the land, with several cairns just below it, is the site in question.
Archaeology & History
Hut circle are hut circles – right? Well, usually that’s the case. We find them attached to, or within, or outlying prehistoric enclosures and can date from anywhere between the neolithic and Iron Age periods. With the site we’re looking at here, on the outer western side of Glen Cochill’s southernmost giant enclosure, there’s something amiss….or maybe that should be, “something rather peculiar.”
Paul Hornby found it a few weeks ago during an exploration of the region’s prehistory. We went in search of, and found, the giant Carn Ban close by, but noticed curious archaeological undulations ebbing in and out of the heathlands: cairns, walls, hut circles, settlements, more cairns—and then this!
Consisting of two slightly larger-than-average ovals of walled stone, probably Bronze Age in date, the first impression was of a remarkably well-preserved site (and that it is!), seemingly of an elongated stretch of walling, with a central wall that split it into two halves. Each ‘hut circle’ was found to be between six and seven yards across, with the two conjoined architectural features giving an overall NW-SE length of 14 yards. But the more we looked at this, the more obvious it became that this was originally one single hut circle—the lower southeastern one—with an additional one that was added and attached onto the northwestern side at a later date, probably several centuries later.
Walking around the structure we found that the very well-preserved walls—about 2 feet wide in places and rising a foot or so above the compacted peat—had been built onto a raised platform of earth. This was no ordinary hut circle! The ground beneath it seems to have been raised and supported and on the southern side in particular it is notable that other building stones are compacted into the peat. There may even be the remains of a secondary outer wall on this southern edge, where it seems that the entrance was made.
Here’s the curious bit: immediately outside the northwestern and southern walls are small prehistoric tombs, or cairns. Not just one or two, but more than a dozen of them, all constructed within 20 yards of this curiously raised double hut circle. Literally, a small prehistoric house of some form was raised in the centre of a prehistoric graveyard—and it doesn’t end here.
Of at least three giant enclosures in this region, and what looks like a very well-preserved prehistoric tribal hall or meeting place, there are upwards of a hundred tombs scattered nearby. Two cairn circles were also found about 100 yards to the north, one of which was damaged by a military road a few centuries ago.
I give this double-roomed abode the somewhat provocative title of the Shaman’s Lodge because of its setting: surrounded by tombs, the ‘house’ would seem to have been a deliberate setting erected in the Land of the Dead here. I hope you can forgive my imaginative mind seeing this as a structure where, perhaps, a medicine woman would give rites to the dead, either for those being buried in the small graves, or rites relating to the giant White Cairn of the ancestors close by. Shamans of one form or another occur in every culture on Earth and have been traced throughout all early cultures. If no such individuals ever existed within the British Isles, someone needs to paint one helluva good reason as to why they believe such a thing….
When the heather grows back here, the site will disappear again beneath the vegetation. It is unlikely to re-appear for quite sometime, so I recommend that anyone wanting to have a look at this does so pretty quick before our Earth covers it once again….
- Stewart, Margaret E.C., “Strath Tay in the Second Millenium BC – A Field Survey”, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 92, 1961
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks again to Paul Hornby for his assistance with site inspection, and additional use of his photos.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian