Case Study 5: Jack Scott's excavations at Ardnacross II chambered tomb and later associated structures, near Peninver, Kintyre

Jack Scott's excavations at Ardnacross II chambered tomb and later associated structures, near Peninver, Kintyre

Vicki Cummings

This case study illustrates the value of writing up unpublished excavations alongside pursuing new fieldwork. Moreover, this is an excellent example of a site which saw use over an extended period, from the start of the Neolithic into the Bronze Age.

Introduction

Jack Scott discovered a megalithic burial chamber at Ardnacross in 1958, which he named Ardnacross II (another chambered tomb a few hundred metres away is known as Ardnacross I). From 1967 through to 1980 Jack Scott and his wife excavated the site (Figure 11), revealing not only the remains of a chambered cairn but also other possible later structures (Scott and Scott 1967; 1968; 1969; 1970; 1971; 1972; 1973; 1974; 1975; 1976; 1977; 1978; 1979; 1980). Unfortunately, Scott died before he was able to publish the results of these excavations. However, the finds from the excavation were acquired in the Kelvingrove, and the paper archive was deposited with the RCAHMS (Iain Fraser pers. comm.). The site was written up for publication as part of the Southern Kintyre Project and new investigations at Blasthill chambered tomb (Cummings and Robinson 2015).

Some problems were encountered in writing up these excavations. Scott did not use context numbers and multiple site grids, thus the plans and sections were sometimes hard to understand. There are no written records at all for the work done in 1976, 1978 and 1980. There was no photographic register and none of the photographs held by the Commission are labelled. Nevertheless, using his site diary, his DES entries and a newly-generated paper record for the site it was possible to write up some components of his excavations at Ardnacross II.

Excavation results

There was evidence of clearance in preparation for the construction of the monument. Once the ground was prepared Scott thought that the construction of the chamber, cairn and forecourt occurred simultaneously. The chamber (Figure 12) divides into three different components and the rear and middle compartments have similar sequences. The primary fill was a layer of dark sandy soil which included some fragments of cremated bone. Scott considered this to be the Neolithic floor level. On top of this was a cleaner sandy soil which contained more cremated bone and a small Neolithic cup in the rear compartment. Next in the sequence was a layer of paving (009) along with a yellow clay floor. Found within a sandy silt on top of the paving/clay floor was a complete Food Vessel and some cremated bone. On top of the early Bronze Age layer was a thick layer of stone blocking which was found throughout all parts of the chamber. This layer contained ten sherds of a Neolithic lugged bowl. Scott believed these were the remains of a vessel which had been disturbed during the early Bronze Age use of the chamber and put back in the chamber after the later deposition event. The front compartment contained no finds and can be considered as an antechamber.

Figure 11: Location of Scott's trenches at Ardnacross (© RCAHMS Licensor www.rcahms.gov.uk)

Figure 12: Plan of the chamber during excavation showing the paving in situ (© RCAHMS Licensor www.rcahms.gov.uk)

Scott also investigated the façade and forecourt at Ardnacross the former constructed using relatively small and thin stones stacked vertically. The sequence in this area is harder to understand due to limitations of the surviving record but it appears a gully containing two fragments of a crucible, slag and other finds were found. The forecourt was then paved and blocked. Scott argued that a Bronze Age round cairn had then been constructed over the earlier Neolithic monument. Towards the northern end of the forecourt was the remains of at least one structure consisting of stone walls and postholes with a laid cobble floor.

Conclusion

Ardnacross is clearly a complex site with potentially multiple phases of use. The analysis of the Scott archive has enabled an interpretation of the archaeology he uncovered to be produced. However, it would be desirable to further understand the archive as it exists. A priority is to gain a better understanding of Scott's trenches from 1975 onwards and this could be achieved by reopening the area of and beyond the forecourt.

Bibliography

  • Scott J G and Scott, M E 1968 'Ardnacross: chambered cairn, ARG 35', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1968, 6.
  • Scott J G and Scott, M E 1969 'Ardnacross: chambered cairn, ARG 35', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1969, 10.
  • Scott J G and Scott, M E 1970 'Ardnacross: Neolithic chambered cairn, ARG 35', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1970, 9.
  • Scott J G and Scott, M E 1971 'Ardnacross: Neolithic chambered cairn, ARG 35', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1971, 10.
  • Scott J G and Scott, M E 1972. 'Ardnacross, Kintyre: chambered cairn ARG 35', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1972, 8-9.
  • Scott J G and Scott, M E 'Ardnacross: chambered cairn, ARG 35', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1973, 13.
  • Scott J G and Scott, M E 1974 'Ardnacross: chambered cairn ARG 35', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1974, 17-18.
  • Scott J G and Scott, M E 1975 'Ardnacross: chambered cairn ARG 35', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1975, 11-12.
  • Scott J G and Scott, M E 1976 'Ardnacross: chambered cairn ARG 35', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1976, 15.
  • Scott J G and Scott, M E 1977 'Ardnacross: chambered cairn', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1977, 7.
  • Scott J G and Scott, M E 1978 'Ardnacross: chambered cairn', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1978, 22.
  • Scott J G and Scott, M E 1979 'Ardnacross (Kintyre): chambered cairn', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1979, 31
  • Scott J G and Scott, M E 1980 'Ardnacross (Saddell and Skipness): chambered cairn', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1980, 30.