A Neolithic Building at Claish Farm, near Callander, Stirling Council, Scotland, UK. (News & Notes)

Article excerpt

The site

The site at Claish Farm was discovered as a cropmark from the air in 1977, when it was photographed by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (FIGURE 1; RCAHMS 2000: 20). It lies on an upper terrace of the River Teith, a tributary of the River Forth, in central Scotland (NGR NN 6355 0656: NMRS no. NN 60 NW 57). It has never been recorded since. It is only about 1.5 km west-southwest of the 350-m long cairn at Auchenlaich, the longest cairn in Britain. Its identification as a possible Neolithic structure was first made by Sally Foster, then of RCAHMS.


The site was excavated in August 2001 by a joint team from the Universities of Stirling and Glasgow, as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Board funded `First Farmers Project', based at Stirling (FIGURE 2). Excavation revealed an arrangement of postholes, pits and slots cut into the undisturbed gravel. The structure measured 25 m long north-south by 9 m across. It comprised seven main elements (numbered on FIGURE 3 left):


1 curved ends formed by substantial conjoining postholes;

2 two lines of closely spaced postholes joining the ends;

3 arcs of massive conjoined postholes set some 1.8-2 m in from each end;

4 two lines of more widely spaced postholes joining these arcs;

5 at least two slots apparently dividing the internal space: that nearer the northern end joins postholes of element 4: that nearer the southern end is linked to postholes of element 4 but does not run right across the structure;

6 further more irregular arrangements of substantial postholes, particularly in the southern half;

7 an area relatively unencumbered by postholes in which there were two features (a & b) and an area (c on FIGURE 3) showing evidence of intense and repeated burning and interpretable as hearths, but whose relationship with the structure could not be demonstrated. One of these features (a) had seen repeated episodes of burning; it had then been lined with pot sherds, on which further fires were set.

The structure itself seems to have burned down at the end of its use, and there is evidence from some postholes that it was repaired or rebuilt on at least one earlier occasion.

Large quantifies of early Neolithic round-bottomed pottery were recovered. During the initial cleaning of the site significant numbers of potsherds were found on the top surfaces of features in the northern part of the site; this was reinforced by the results of excavation. Features in the north were pottery-rich, those in the south, produced virtually none. There were hardly any pieces of struck stone.

Burnt daub was recovered, and the intensity of the burning suggests the presence of substantial quantities of timber, rather than the burning of isolated posts (David Hogg pers. comm.). Post-excavation analysis is at an early stage, but the structure is provisionally interpreted as a roofed building.


Little is known of the nature or pattern of Neolithic settlement in east and central Scotland (the areas containing the best agricultural soil in Scotland). Many burial and ceremonial sites are known, but few settlements.

In the late 1970s a large timber structure was excavated 160 km northeast of Claish Farm, at Balbridie (Aberdeenshire Council) (Fairweather & Ralston 1993) (FIGURE 3 right). The structure measured 24 m long by 12 m wide. …