Central and eastern Scotland
DOI link for Central and eastern Scotland
Central and eastern Scotland book
Long-cist cemeteries have already been introduced in the context of early Christianity in southern Scotland. More recent publications of long-cist cemeteries, however, with radiocarbon dates, have come from sites north of the Forth estuary. A major cemetery, excavated in the 1970s, at Hallowhill, St Andrews (Proudfoot, 1996), produced some twenty radiocarbon dates spanning the sixth to ninth centuries AD. Of 145 burials the majority were long cists, but with some in graves outlined by boulders rather than sandstone slabs, and with a small group of simple ‘dug’ graves that may have contained wooden cofﬁns, of which all trace had gone. The cemetery was not enclosed, and its full limit could not be established, but the burials could have totalled several hundred in all. Among burials uncovered in the vicinity in the nineteenth century was a child’s cist with at least one glass vessel and other fragmentary artefacts, whilst the more recent excavations included a two-tiered burial, the lower of which was that of a child with Roman artefacts among the grave-goods. The items included a seal-box decorated in milleﬁori, an object intended for ofﬁcial use rather than as a personal trinket. A Roman ﬁnger-ring and silver bracelet were both broken fragments, and together with a complete brooch could have been treasured over many generations before being ﬁnally deposited in the grave. Contrary perhaps to expectations of an earlier, pre-Christian, post-Roman date, the radiocarbon dates for the composite tiered cist are not signiﬁcantly different from the rest of the graves in the cemetery. The excavator nevertheless argued for an older tradition of sanctity on the site, perhaps represented by a rectangular post-built structure of uncertain date and function, and one pit in particular which yielded a radiocarbon date around the end of the ﬁrst millennium BC. In principle it seems possible that the early Christian longcist cemeteries of south-eastern Scotland did develop out of an older, less clearly formalised tradition from the pre-Christian era.