Strandhall – the burial of two young people

Author: Rachel and Michelle

Strandhall Farm is located on the A5 between Kentraugh and Balladoole in one of the farm fields. The site was found during agricultural work in 1983. The farm workers had stumbled across a prehistoric burial cist. Larch Garrad, from the Manx Museum went to investigate what had been found and carried out two small-scale rescue excavations.

Garrad initially opened a trench large enough to investigate the cist. The cist was located within a cutting into the bed-rock. The cist had no floor slab and three of the sides were made of a single slab of slate with the fourth side constructed from two blocks. Several additional stone boulders (probably taken from the beach) were also used to build-up the height of the cist walls and support the sides. The cist itself contained and inhumation burial. The cist had filled with soil and Garrad suggests it might have been disturbed by an animal as some of the teeth were not located near the skull. Garrad also found a scraper and a flint flake in the cist.

Cist 1
Cist at Strandhall – photo from the MNH archive. The scale bar along the right hand edge is 2m long. You can see the big construction slabs and the way that smaller boulders have been used to build-up the height of the mound.

Near to the cist Garrad found a band of water-worn boulders located within a yellowish soil – which she interprets as the remains of a stone kerb that once surrounded the mound. She used the location and size of this spread of stones to estimate that the mound might have been about 10m in diameter.


In addition to the burial in the cist a small deposit of cremated remains were found nearby. Garrad’s excavated the site on two separate occasions and the cremated remains appears during this second excavation and it is a little tricky to understand how these cremated remains relate to the mound. If we think that Garrad had accurately identified the kerb-edge of the mound then these cremated remains were found outside of the main area of the mound in what looks to have been a stone-lined trench nearby. Garrad suggests this stone setting interrupts the second cist containing the cremated remains. The cremation was found under a small stone slab that she interprets as a capstone. Garrad tells us she found a sherd of Collared Urn, a form of Bronze Age pottery, nearby in the stone setting potentially dating the feature to the Bronze Age. The relationship between the stone setting and this second cist is hard to work out, the stone setting may well be a potentially later drainage ditch.

Strandhall work up
Plan of Strandhall, adapted and digitised from a plan in the MNH Archive. The dotted and dashed L-shaped box to the left of the image is the area that she opened first to investigate the cist, and the rest of the site was excavated a few months later leading to the discovery of the cremation.


Garrad also notes that the fragments of the cremated skull had been placed on top of the rest of the cremated remains. This suggests that the body was cremated elsewhere, then bones were collected and brought to the site for burial with the mourners selecting specific fragments of the skull to place on top of the rest of the bones.

Cremation 1
Photograph from the MNH archive of the stone-slab covering the location of the cremation burial. A hand-tape has been placed on top of the slab to give a sense of scale to the image.


Michelle examined the bones from Strandhall in the Manx Museum in October. The bones from the inhumation burial in the cist are badly eroded from the acidic local soil. Less than 5% of the skeleton remains. The teeth from this burial and the nature of the bones suggest that the person died around age 10-13 years old. It was not possible to work out their sex.

The cremated bones appear to also belong to a relatively young person – aged around 16-22 years when they died. These bones are quite small and highly warped from the cremation process. Michelle could not identify the sex of this individual either but was able to suggest they were perhaps a small person. Within the cremated bone she also found a small amount of unburned animal bone and flint which appears to have been deposited with the cremation. It may have been that a cut of meat for example was buried with the cremated remains.

Michelle has prepared samples from both of these skeletons for radiocarbon dating and we hope to send them off for analysis in the coming months. Having radiocarbon dates for these bones will help us to try and understand the relationship between the cist and the stone-lined trench better.


2 thoughts on “Strandhall – the burial of two young people

  1. Such a great blog, I wish there was a way to get email notifications for when there’s new content up. Looking forward to reading more, as always haha 🙂


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