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
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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)
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'
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
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:
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing