Beakers and bunkers: investigation of a prehistoric burial at Rothes Golf Club

In July 2011 GUARD Archaeology Ltd conducted investigations at the location of a small All-Over Corded (AOC) Beaker found during landscaping works at Rothes Golf Course in Moray. The GUARD Archaeology investigation was carried out on behalf of Historic Scotland under the terms of the Human Remains Call-Off Contract, as it was anticipated that the vessel may have been associated with an inhumation. The AOC Beaker, along with a flint blade and a Beaker sherd, had been found by the green-keeper while removing sand from a natural hummock at the south-east corner of the golf course. Claire Herbert of Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service found a further Beaker sherd in the vicinity.

The GUARD Archaeology team, led by Christine Rennie, undertook topographical and geophysical surveys of the environs of the find-spot and an assessment of the find-spot itself, recovering 8 more pottery fragments as well as a piece of lithic debitage, small pieces of charcoal and a lump of organic matter identified as cramp, during sieving of the sand deposits around the initial find-spot.

During the subsequent post-excavation process undertaken by GUARD Archaeology, charcoal from the unusually small Beaker was radiocarbon dated to 2462-2271 BC. Although no human remains were found during the investigation, the concentrated presence of artefacts, all dating to the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age implies that this is the site of a prehistoric burial. The diminutive proportions of the Beaker coupled with the early radiocarbon date for its contents make this a unique find in a region where Beaker burials have been, and continue to be, found in significant numbers.

The proximity of a nearby Neolithic mortuary enclosure and the presumed burial pit that contained the Beakers suggests a continuation of this area of Rothes as a locus for funerary activity over many generations, encompassing the transition from collective tombs or cremations, to individual graves.

The full results of this research, ARO7: Beakers and Bunkers; Investigations at Rothes Golf Club, has just been published and is now freely available to download from the Archaeology Reports Online (ARO) website - www.archaeologyreportsonline.com.