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Grey Cairns Of Camster

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Monuments and Water:
A re-interpretation of the Grey Cairns of Camster, Caithness.
Amelia Pannet


The Neolithic archaeology of Caithness is little known to most people outside northern Scotland, despite the wealth of evidence that litters the landscapes. This is no doubt a consequence of the relative lack of archaeological investigation in the area since the 19th Century when distinguished antiquarians such as Anderson and Rhind carried out ground-breaking excavations of many chambered cairns and Brochs. Here in lies the irony; the centre of antiquarian exploration is now considered by many as peripheral to studies of British Prehistory (Mercer 1992). That said, however, fieldwork carried out by Henshall, Corcoran and Masters, amongst others, has provided an invaluable corpus of data from which we can move forward and try to bring Caithness in line with the rest of British archaeology.

The majority of fieldwork undertaken in the past in Caithness has tended to be monument-centred, examining individual chambered cairns or so called groups of cairns, and overlooking the wider context into which these structures were placed. The concept of the “landscape”, which has been fashionable in archaeological research since the 1970’s (Darvill 1994), and which has enabled a greater insight into Prehistoric cosmologies, has not really been applied to the Neolithic remains here. I want to take a landscape approach in this paper, and examine the most renowned of the Caithness chambered cairns, the Grey cairns of Camster, in relation to the surrounding topography, landscape and natural elements.



Monumentality in Caithness

The Grey Cairns of Camster

The Camster Landscape

Conclusion and References

Amelia Pannett is an archaeology graduate and is currently studying at Cardiff university.  She is working towards her Phd researching the Neolithic in Caithness.  Her studies have included extensive periods researching in Caithness.   She has worked with the Dunbeath Preservation Society and led a number of walks and talks in the Summer of 2000.  Among the talks was one on The Grey Cairns of Camster entitled "Monuments and Water".  Miss Pannett has reworked her lecture given at Dunbeath for Caithness.org and we would like to thank her for her time in preparing it for our pages. 

Email melipannet@hotmail.com   

Pictures of Camster Cairns in A to Z