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.