Cists with Recorded Finds but No Visible Remains

Cists with Recorded Finds but No Visible Remains

There are five sites where skeletons and grave goods have been recorded as found in cists, but where there are no visible remains of the cists themselves.

Several cists were uncovered in 1892 on the Ardalanish seashore to the south of Ardachy, 2.1 km south of Bunessan on the Ross of Mull.  Their exact position is unknown.  A report of the findings was published in The Proceedings of the Antiquaries of Scotland in 1896-7.  The 1.2 by 0.7 m lid was removed from one cist, which measured 0.8 m by 0.5 m internally and 0.6 m deep.  It contained a complete skeleton in a state of good preservation and nothing else.  The skeleton was lying on its right side, with knees drawn up to chin.  Two other cists each contained a skull and some bones from the torso, and one contained a portion of an empty urn.  One cist contained only an empty urn and another white, water-worn pebbles. The two urns or food vessels were donated to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (now subsumed into the National Museum of Scotland).  The three skulls were take from the graves, but the other bones left in situ.  The skulls were measured in detail by Professor Sir William Turner (Professor of Anatomy at Edinburgh University, who founded the University’s Anatomy Museum) and were then included in the museum’s collection.  The skulls all belonged to young people, 10- and 12-year-old girls and an 18-year-old male.  This shows that the Bronze Age Society cared for its dead and undertook formal burials, even for young females.

In cists at Gribun, two food vessels that were found with crouched inhumation burials in cists are now in the National Museum of Scotland.  The precise location of the cists has not been recorded, and a flint ‘spearhead’ found with one of the burials cannot now be traced.

In 1891 a cist containing a food vessel was found at Quinish (north Mull).  The vessel stands 14 cm high, and is 13 cm in diameter at its mouth and 5.5 cm at its base.  The outside is decorated with impressed markings, resembling a twisted cord, and inside the lip is decorated with impressed zigzags.  This vessel is now in the National Museum of Scotland.  A flanged bronze axe in a private collection in Doncaster, was reputed to have come from Quinish.

In 1882, during the excavation of the foundations of what was formerly the Free Church at Salen (now deconsecrated and a private residence), several cists were discovered at a depth of around 6.7 m.  They were described as half-length stone coffins.  One cist contained a beaker (which was broken by falling into the trench being dug), two fragments of copper and two flint implements; these are now in the National Museum of Scotland.

It is reported that cists containing burials were discovered during the construction of the gardens of Torosay Castle in about 1858, but their precise locations are not known, nor is there any further information about the contents.