Around the beginning of the 3rd millennium cal bc a cremation cemetery was established at Forteviot, central Scotland. This place went on to become one of the largest monument complexes identified in Mainland Scotland, with the construction of a palisaded enclosure, timber structures, and a series of henge monuments and other enclosures. The cemetery was established between 3080 and 2900 cal bc, probably in the 30th century cal bc, which is contemporary with the cremation cemetery at Stonehenge. Nine discrete deposits of cremated bone, representing the remains of at least 18 people, were identified. In most instances they were placed within cut features and, in one case, a series of cremation deposits was associated with a broken standing stone. This paper includes the first detailed assessment of the cremated remains at Forteviot and the features associated with the cemetery, and explores how the establishment of this cemetery may have been both a catalyst and inspiration for the elaborate monument building and prolonged acts of remembrance that occurred at this location over a period of almost 1000 years. The paper also outlines the parallels for Forteviot across Britain and, for the first time, draws together the dating evidence (including Bayesian modelling) for this major category of evidence for considering the nature of late 4th/early 3rd millennium cal bc society. The results and discussion have wide implications and resonances for contemplating the establishment and evolution of monument complexes in prehistoric Britain and beyond.
Bibliographical noteThis paper is the result of the hard work and contribution of many people. In particular we would like to thank the substantial contributions made to this paper by Alison Sheridan, Stephany Leach and Derek Hamilton; they also kindly read over and commented on earlier versions of this paper, but all errors remain our own. The excavations at Forteviot were the work of dozens of students from Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities and local volunteers. Dupplin Estate kindly allowed us to work at Forteviot. Fieldwork and post-excavation analysis was largely funded by Historic Environment Scotland (then Historic Scotland), and we very much benefited from the support of colleagues within the SERF Project – Ewan Campbell, Steve Driscoll and Tessa Poller. Figures 1 and 2 were prepared by Lorraine McEwan, while Figures 3 and 16 were drawn by Alison Sandison. Figures 11 to 15 were prepared by Derek Hamilton, while the drawings in Figures 7 and 8 were undertaken by Marion O’Neil. Historic Environment Scotland have provided grant aid for the publication and illustration of this paper.
- bone ‘skewer’ pins
- cremation cemetery
- Grooved Ware complex
- radiocarbon dating