Respecting the Ancestors… a memorial to a bronze age princess.

The many different peoples who have inhabited the lands of Arran and mainland Kintyre have left artefacts, monuments and memorials that show the deep respect they had for their ancestors and forebears.

Stone covering the burial cist on the island of Inchmarnock

We have had many enjoyable times discovering the remnants of those memorials and burial cairns. Some of which stand out stark against the landscape whilst others are more hidden and remote.

One particularly memorable day involved a trip in Kathy and Nigels rib to the isolated and uninhabited island of Inchmarnock. What a special treat that was!

The islands name comes from the Gaelic, Innis Mhearnaig, meaning island of Marnock (saint). It could be that this refers to a holy man who lived on the island in the 7th century and who established a monastery there. Or it could just be a general reference to the patron saint of the island’s monks,

A burial cist was found on the island by a farmer in the 1950s while he was out ploughing. And, apparently the grave was left open simply covered by a pane of glass for many years before it was covered with the huge stone which now marks its position.

It contained a 4,000 year old skeleton of a female along with a jet necklace and a dagger.

Surprisingly, the archaeologists were able to identify the necklace as being made from Whitby Jet. What a distance those materials had travelled to be worn in both life and death on a tiny, seemingly remote island.

Clearly , these bronze age peoples were more widely travelled and connected than we might have imagined. Travel and trade will most probably have happened by sea and water including rivers and lochs rather than overland.

The plaque on the burial cist

Even more surprisingly they were able to reconstruct her appearance from her skull and even identify elements in her diet.

Reconstruction of her head and the Whitby Jet necklace.

Apparently, she was born in the Cyde Estuary but did not eat seafood even though she lived on a small island.

Clearly, she was regarded as someone of great importance by her peers. Archaeological evidence shows that she had plenty of contemporaries living on the island, however, very few other cist burials have been found . Additionally, she was allowed to keep her precious necklace with her on her journey to the next life despite it being of great value.

Looking back from the burial cist towards the rib

The island itself is serenely beautiful with outstanding views and due to its undisturbed habitat a wide variety of plants.

Since the last inhabitants of the island finally departed the owner of the island, Lord Smith of Kelvin, has farmed the land organically with a herd of highland cattle and so encouraged the native flora and fauna to flourish.

We did spot this rather lovely specimen close to the burial cist.

Is it a Scarlet Pimpernel?

What a fitting floral tribute for an archaeological gem hidden in full sight.

2 thoughts on “Respecting the Ancestors… a memorial to a bronze age princess.

  1. How wonderful and fascinating. One of the archeological museums we visited on Orkney recently had stone findings that had come from the Lake District. It’s so tempting to think of these places as isolated communities, but it seems that there was much more travel than one might think. Amazing how much of an ancient story can be told through a few fragments – and of course tantalising about what else can never be known.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely amazing how much trade and therefore travel was happening. It shows what excellent mariners they must have been to navigate such difficult, long sea journeys. Presumably they made frequent stops along the coasts and islands. In turn this will probably have meant greater trading opportunities too. But this is all supposition, we can never really know.

      Liked by 1 person

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