Blairadam Forest

Medieval Cist Burials Recorded at Pitkerro Cemetery 

During the development of a new cemetery on an area of agricultural land at Pitkerro, contractors working for Dundee City Council uncovered a cist burial containing human remains.  The discovery occurred when stripping the course of a path close to the entrance for the new cemetery in an area that will eventually be landscaped and set aside for the scattering of ashes.  The find was soon reported to the local authority archaeologist and Alder was commissioned to clean up and record the remains prior to re-burial.

Cleaning back the cist

The cist was found to be capped by roughly placed and awkwardly shaped stones rather than a single slab lid.   These capping stones were very fragile and were carefully cleaned up and recorded prior to removal.  Inside the cist was skeleton of a man placed on his back in a remarkably good state of preservation.

The skeleton revealed

The loose soil and collapsed cover stones from the recent machining were removed and the grave cleaned up and recorded.  Previous ingress of soil on the S side of the cist had occurred in antiquity when a side stone had partially fallen, with the result that the bones had degraded due to contact with soil.  This meant that the right side of the ribs and the right arm were missing.  Rodent activity was also noted on some of the bones and the skull had been disturbed and was partially embedded in the antique soil.

Recording the burial

While the grave was being recorded, continuing ground works revealed another cist a short distance away from the first.  This second grave was not excavated or fully revealed, but it was photographed, recorded and re-buried.  Once the first skeleton had been fully recorded, the contractors sealed the grave with a new stone lid and the cist was eventually re-buried.

The second cist burial revealed

Analysis of one of the finger bones subsequently provided a C14 date for the first burial of between 530 and 635AD.  This date aloong with the orientation of the cists suggests that Pitkerrow was the location of an early Christian burial ground, though as the area is being converted to a cemetery we may never find how large or important this site was.




re-sealing the cist