Cairns

The Cheviots are littered with cairns, ranging from small piles of stones to massive structures over 100 yards long. Some are modern, often built by walkers to mark paths or a summit, while others date back to the Neolithic.

Large cairns are believed to have been funerary in nature, but small ones can also hold interred remains. There are a few Neolithic long cairns in the Cheviots; these, like their round counterparts, may contain burial chambers; sometimes the burials took place in small, slab-sided cists with human remains accompanied by a few personal possessions. Other burials were in pots that held the ashes from a cremation. Inhumation practices changed in the late Bronze Age, and in general after about 1000 BC funerary cairns are rare. Cairns are very often damaged – almost certainly because at some stage they have been robbed.

Smaller piles of stones, sometimes in cairn fields, are often clearance cairns; dating from the Bronze Age or later, they are the result of early farmers gathering stones in order to release as much cultivatable ground as possible.

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