In March of this year, we reported on the discovery of a cist found eroding from the face of a sand and gravel quarry at Sannox, on the Isle of Arran (see report here). Following the discovery of this cist, which was reported to us by Jamie McKinnon, staff from GUARD Archaeology Ltd undertook a rescue excavation, funded by Historic Scotland under the terms of the Human Remains Call-Off Contract. A report on the results of this excavation has now been received.
The excavation, carried out at the edge of the quarry face, revealed that two short cists were present in the area. Both were rectangular shaped structures, with large slabs set vertically in oval shaped cuts. The cist that was identified initially contained a cremation deposit in the centre. This had been associated with the tripartite ceramic food vessel and flint knife shown in our original report, which were removed by Mr McKinnon to prevent them from falling into the quarry floor. The excavation revealed a possible organic layer under the south side of the cremation deposit, which may suggest that the cremation was deposited in some organic container, or that organic material was placed with the burial deposition. An initial assessment of the cremated remains revealed that they were human and possibly adult in age, but the condition of the remains is certainly good enough to allow further analysis. Determination of minimum number of individuals, sex, age and pathologies (should they be present) could therefore be assessed.
The ceramic Food vessel placed to the north of the cremation was mostly complete. A light grey sandy soil was recorded within the pottery, together with small fragments of cremated bone. It looked as though the vessel was filled with the cremation deposit, since it was very similar to the material found within the cist, and also contained cremated bone fragments. Several cremation burial deposits have been discovered around Sannox Bay, but in particular, it is recorded that an urn with cremated bones was recovered in the 19th century when the east side of the cairn that lay just south of the site fell away (see WoSAS Pin 4803).
The second cits, which was located around 3m to the west of the first, did not contain any artefacts or apparent human remains, but was of similar construction and size to the first.