Kerbed platform cairn 60m NNE of Holmbush Carn, Great Ganilly


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010152

Date first listed: 07-Oct-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 13-Feb-1995


Ordnance survey map of Kerbed platform cairn 60m NNE of Holmbush Carn, Great Ganilly
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Isles of Scilly (Unitary Authority)

Parish: St. Martin's

National Grid Reference: SV 94556 14552


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

The Isles of Scilly, the westernmost of the granite masses of south west England, contain a remarkable abundance and variety of archaeological remains from over 4000 years of human activity. The remote physical setting of the islands, over 40km beyond the mainland in the approaches to the English Channel, has lent a distinctive character to those remains, producing many unusual features important for our broader understanding of the social development of early communities. Throughout the human occupation there has been a gradual submergence of the islands' land area, providing a stimulus to change in the environment and its exploitation. This process has produced evidence for responses to such change against an independent time-scale, promoting integrated studies of archaeological, environmental and linguistic aspects of the islands' settlement. The islands' archaeological remains demonstrate clearly the gradually expanding size and range of contacts of their communities. By the post- medieval period (from AD 1540), the islands occupied a nationally strategic location, resulting in an important concentration of defensive works reflecting the development of fortification methods and technology from the mid 16th to the 20th centuries. An important and unusual range of post- medieval monuments also reflects the islands' position as a formidable hazard for the nation's shipping in the western approaches. The exceptional preservation of the archaeological remains on the islands has long been recognised, producing an unusually full and detailed body of documentation, including several recent surveys. Platform cairns are funerary monuments of Early Bronze Age date (c.2000-1600 BC). They were constructed as low flat-topped mounds of stone rubble, up to 40m in external diameter though usually considerably smaller, covering single or multiple burials. Some examples have other features, including peripheral banks and internal mounds constructed on the platform. A kerb of slabs or edge-set stones sometimes bounds the edge of the platform, and a peripheral bank or mound if present. Platform cairns can occur as isolated monuments, in small groups or in cairn cemeteries. In cemeteries they are normally found alongside cairns of other types. Platform cairns form a significant proportion of the 387 surviving cairns on the Isles of Scilly; this is unusual in comparison with the mainland. All surviving examples on the Isles of Scilly are considered worthy of protection.

This kerbed platform cairn on Great Ganilly has survived substantially intact, despite the limited stone robbing for the modern landmark. The hollow from that robbing has revealed traces of an internal funerary structure with little evident disturbance. The relationships between this monument, the other varied types of funerary cairn and field system on the Eastern Isles, and the known submergence of the land since they were built, illustrate in a dramatic way the major environmental changes that have affected the setting of some surviving prehistoric monuments since their construction and show the diversity of funerary practices and the organisation of land use among prehistoric communities.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a prehistoric kerbed platform cairn situated on the highest point of the northern hill of Great Ganilly, the largest of the Eastern Isles in the Isles of Scilly. This is the south western of two kerbed cairns on this hill. A small modern rubble pillar supporting a wooden cross forms a landmark feature built onto the western side of this cairn's platform. The platform cairn survives with a circular mound of heaped rubble, 9m in diameter, rising up to 0.75m high from the north and 0.4m high from the south to a flattened upper platform, 5m in diameter. The north and west sides of the platform's perimeter are marked by a kerb of spaced slabs, the largest being edge-set on the northern edge and measuring up to 1m long and 0.6m high. Two further slabs, up to 1.5m long by 1m wide, lie on the mound's north eastern slope and are considered to have been displaced from the kerb or a central funerary structure. The centre of the platform contains a hollow measuring 3m east-west by 2m north-south and 0.25m deep. The hollow results from recent stone robbing to produce the modern landmark pillar built on the western edge of the hollow. The base of the hollow beside the northern edge of the modern pillar has partly exposed two adjacent long slabs, laid side by side on a north south axis; the slabs extend beneath the edge of the modern pillar and are considered to be exposed parts of the cairn's internal funerary structure.

The prominent location of this cairn has resulted in the siting of a modern landmark pillar on the western side of its platform. The pillar measures 1.5m east-west by 1.3m north-south at its base and tapers to the top, rising 1m high. It is built of roughly piled rubble and supports an improvised wooden cross, 1m high and 1.2m across the arms, made from two slender slats tied together and wedged into the pillar below. This cross is known to have been replaced on several occasions due to its fragility in such an exposed location.

Although this cairn is located on what is now a fairly small uninhabited island, the physical environment in which it was built was a rocky ridge towards the eastern edge of the single large island that formerly united much of the area of the present Isles of Scilly archipelago, from St Mary's northwards. The gradual sinking of the land since this cairn was constructed has led to the fragmentation of that island into the present scatter of large and small islands and rocks. Broadly contemporary funerary cairns and field systems of various types are located on other islands in the Eastern Isles group, all formerly hills on the eastern margin of the pre-submergence island. Near this kerbed cairn, on the same northern hill of Great Ganilly, these other monuments include another kerbed cairn 65m to the north east and a prehistoric field system from 60m to the south east.

The modern wooden cross is excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath it is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 15387

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Grigson, G, The Scilly Isles, (1977)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
consulted 1994, Ratcliffe, J., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7210, (1988)
consulted 1994, Ratcliffe, J., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7210.01, (1988)
consulted 1994, Ratcliffe, J., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7210.03, (1988)
consulted 1994, Ratcliffe, J., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7211, (1988)
Information told to fieldworker by Mr Steve Walder, St Martin's, (1993)
Rees, S., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 1027, 1975, Cairn 'a'. Consulted 1994
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 SW Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing