Spinningdale Stone Cist
The short prehistoric stone cist of Spinningdale (nord. ’round valley’) at Keas Cottage in the far east of Sutherland in Scotland was discovered and excavated in 2011 during the construction of a septic tank
The preserved bones in the stone cist, built from four massive blocks and the capstone and measuring about 1.1 by 0.6 m, which had been constructed in a larger pit, belong to the mortal remains of a huddled middle-aged woman with signs of joint disease. Several features of the burial and grave goods make the box find significant.
Radiocarbon dates (2051-1911 BC and 2151-2018 BC) date the cist to the Early Bronze Age. A multi-zoned Early Bronze Age urn was placed to the west of the skull. The surprise was the discovery of remains of a sheepskin among the skeletal remains. The sheepskin discovered on the left arm is the first from a Bronze Age burial site on the island. Two other samples of Bronze Age wool have been found in the British Isles, but no sheepskins
Also significant is the large pit in which the cist was erected. In other burials in Scotland, the large pits were used to perform subsequent rituals. In contrast, the Spinningdale box was sealed and thus represents an exclusive burial
The dating of the box contents is consistent with the National Museum of Scotland’s chronology for Scottish Food Vessels. However, the form and distribution of these vessels is complicated by their limited numbers. The vessel found appears to have been common along the Scottish east coast. It contained charred material, unidentifiable burnt bone and the fragment of a small ring
There appears to be a geographical relationship of the cist contents to the Scottish east coast, represented by similar burials and comparable decoration there. The fact that the individual was buried facing east, towards the Dornoch Firth, is perhaps to be interpreted as an indication of this.
- List of stone boxes
- Description and pictures (PDF; 1,8 MB)