Prehistoric cairn group on Great Hill, Tean


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016178

Date first listed: 07-Oct-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 25-Sep-1997


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric cairn group on Great Hill, Tean
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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: Tresco

National Grid Reference: SV 90987 16554, SV 91019 16518


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.

Entrance graves are funerary and ritual monuments whose construction and use dates from the later Neolithic to the middle Bronze Age (c.2500 - 1000 BC). Constructed with a roughly circular mound of heaped rubble and earth, up to 25m in diameter, their perimeter may be defined by a kerb of edge-set slabs or, occasionally, coursed stone. The mound contains a rectangular chamber built of edge-set slabs, coursed walling or both, and covered by large slabs set across the chamber. The chamber was accessible via a gap in the mound's outer edge and often extends back beyond the centre of the mound. Excavations in entrance graves have revealed cremated human bone and funerary urns, usually within the chambers but on occasion within the mound. Some chambers have also produced ritual deposits of domestic debris. Entrance graves may occur as single monuments or in small or large groups, often associated with other cairn types. Ring cairns are one of the less frequent associations of entrance graves despite being broadly contemporary in date. They comprise a circular bank of stones, sometimes kerbed, surrounding a flattish central area. Excavations have revealed that some contained pits with cremations and ritual deposits within the central area. The national distribution of entrance graves is heavily weighted towards the Isles of Scilly which contain 79 of the 93 surviving examples recorded nationally, the remaining 14 being located in western Cornwall. By contrast ring cairns are much more widely distributed nationally, though still relatively rare with between 250 and 500 known examples.

Each of the three cairns on Great Hill survives well, the ring cairn showing no evidence for deliberate disturbance and the entrance graves remaining substantially intact despite the removal and displacement of their covering slabs. The ring cairn, although the more widespread cairn type nationally, is an unusual form of funerary monument on Scilly. The cairns' proximity to prominent natural landscape features shows well the strong influence of landforms in the physical expression of prehistoric funerary and ritual activity. Their broadly contemporary setting is demonstrated by surviving prehistoric field systems and settlement sites on the lower slopes and in the inter-tidal zone on the west and south of Tean, giving an unusually broad insight into the organisation of prehistoric land use across the altitude range prior to its extensive submergence.


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


The scheduling includes a group of three prehistoric funerary cairns located on the summit and south east spur of Great Hill on Tean, a small uninhabited island in the north of the Isles of Scilly. The scheduling is divided into two separate constraint areas. Two of the group's cairns are located immediately south of the hill's summit and are 1.5m apart on a north-south axis. The northernmost is a form known as an entrance grave, with a sub-circular rubble mound 8m in diameter and to 1m high, abutting the south west edge of the hill's summit outcrops. Within the mound's periphery is a line of ten slabs, to 1.1m high and 1.4m long, forming a kerb 7m in diameter and also abutting the summit outcrops on its north east side. The kerb slabs are contiguous and edge-set on the north west and south east, but spaced and fallen outwards around the south west. The mound is shallow-domed within the kerb and contains remains of a rectangular funerary chamber, 3.7m NNE-SSW by 1.1m wide internally, defined by edge-set slabs up to 1.2m long, deeply embedded in the mound's surface from which they rise only 0.1m. The SSW end, lacking closing slabs, is considered to form the entrance. No covering slabs are present. The southern of the summit cairns is a small ring cairn surviving as a low ovoid walled setting, generally 0.5m wide and 0.1m high with almost contiguous slabs along its inner and outer faces, around an internal area 2.5m in diameter but poorly defined along its southern edge due to thicker turf cover. The setting includes a large edge-set slab, 1m long and 0.4m high, on the south east. The southern half of the interior is occupied by two larger slabs, up to 1.5m long, lying flat and considered either to have formed a natural focus for the ring cairn or to have been displaced from the circular setting. The third cairn in the group is located 50m south east of the hill's summit and is also an entrance grave, situated beside the foot of a large bedrock crag on the hill's south eastern spur. It has a slight mound 7.5m in diameter and 0.5m high, its north west edge only 2m from the foot of the crag. Its kerb includes at least five large slabs, up to 1.4m high, widely spaced around the perimeter. Within the kerb the sub-rectangular chamber measures 3.3m north east-south west by up to 1.5m wide internally, open at its south western entrance and with the north west wall bowed slightly outwards at the centre. The chamber interior is up to 0.7m deep, walled by a combination of edge-set slabs and coursed rubble. At least two of the chamber's covering slabs are present, approximately 1.5m long and displaced by the entrance and against the south east side of the chamber.

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: 15499

Legacy System: RSM


Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7110.01, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7110.02, (1988)
Parkes, C/CAU, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7649, (1988)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 91 NW Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing