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Excavations at Upper Largie quarry, Argyll & Bute, Scotland: new light on the prehistoric ritual landscape of the Kilmartin Glen

The Prehistoric Society
Publication Date
  • Cc Archaeology
  • Design


Excavations were carried out intermittently between 1982 and 2005, by various excavators, in advance of quarrying activity at Upper Largie, Kilmartin Glen, Argyll & Bute. They revealed abundant evidence of prehistoric activity, dating from the Mesolithic to the Middle Bronze Age, on a fluvioglacial terrace overlooking the rest of the Glen, although some evidence was doubtless destroyed without record during a period of unmonitored quarrying. Several undated features were also discovered. Mesolithic activity is represented by four pits, probably representing a temporary camp; this is the first evidence for Mesolithic activity in the Glen. Activity of definite and presumed Neolithic date includes the construction, and partial burning, of a post-defined cursus. Copper Age activity is marked by an early Beaker grave which matches counterparts in the Netherlands in both design and contents, and raises the question of the origin of its occupant. The terrace was used again as a place of burial during the Early Bronze Age, between the 22nd and the 18th century, and the graves include one, adjacent to the early Beaker grave, containing a unique footed Food Vessel combining Irish and Yorkshire Food Vessel features. At some point/s during the first half of the 2nd millennium bc – the oakbased dates may suffer from ‘old wood’ effect – three monuments were constructed on the terrace: a pit, surrounded by pits or posts, similar in design to the early Beaker grave; a timber circle; and a post row. The latest datable activity consists of a grave, containing cremated bone in a Bucket Urn, the bone being dated to 1410–1210 cal bc; this may well be contemporary with an assemblage of pottery from a colluvium spread. The relationship between this activity and contemporary activities elsewhere in the Glen is discussed.

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