Bronze Age Burials at Carnoustie

During the first half of 2019, AOC undertook a programme of works at Upper Victoria, Carnoustie, Angus, on behalf of DJ Laing Group Ltd prior to a proposed development.

The excavation revealed several prehistoric and early historic structures, as well as field boundaries and a wealth of settlement evidence across the site.

Excavation of structures 4 and 2 Left: Structure 2. Right: Structure 4

Initial interpretation suggests at least two prehistoric structures were present on the site, including a fully enclosed ring ditch structure (Structure 4, above); and at least two structures with a possible early historic date including a sub-rectangular ditch with rounded ends and a small annex (Structure 2, above).

However, the most impressive archaeological features encountered during the works were undoubtedly a series of cist burials likely dating to the Bronze Age.

In total, eight cist burials were excavated, with at least four of these demonstrating phenomenal preservation and including exceptional grave goods.

Cist 1 was a corbelled cist containing a poorly preserved crouched inhumation burial and a loosely bundled collection of cremated and uncremated teeth.

Cist 2 had been previously disturbed and contained a small portion of heavily degraded bone.

Cist 3 was situated in a large steep sided pit with the possible remains of a cairn marking its location. Within this were the degraded remains of a crouched inhumation burial.

Cist 4 also suggested the presence of a cairn and contained a crouched inhumation burial with a poorly preserved ceramic vessel placed near the head.

Two cists with crouched inhumation burials

Left: Cist 7. Right: Cist 5

Carved bone belt ringCist 5 and 6 were located beside each other and were both void of infill material, making for a spectacular visual. Cist 5 contained the remains of at least three individuals, one of whom appeared to have been covered by a garment or covering made from textile/hide. A bone ring (left), perhaps part of a belt, was also recovered from the same individual, and a two thirds complete beaker vessel was present in the northeast of the cist.

Cist 6 contained the remains of two individuals, both fairly well preserved with some organic covering. A decorated bone ring and the remains of a crushed beaker were also present.

The blade from Cist 7Cist 7 was also mostly void of infill material and contained one crouched inhumation. At the base of the left arm of the crouched individual was a small copper alloy blade (right) covered with the remains of a possible sheath.

Cist 8’s capstone was broken, allowing for the intrusion of material. The poorly preserved remains of one individual were present, although the remains of a ceramic beaker were better preserved.

Three probable cremation pits were also excavated, and were located relatively close to cists 5 and 6.

These constitute a potentially nationally significant Bronze Age cist cemetery, complete with multiple human remains of excellent preservation, with grave goods such as beakers, textiles, blades and bone artefacts. Together with the multiperiod settlement remains, the site at Upper Victoria, Carnoustie has enriched our understandinging of the archaeology of the area and will undoubtedly further our understanding of Bronze Age burial practices in Angus. We look forward to finding out more through post-excavation analyses.









                                                                                Beaker from Cist 5