Biggar Common

The Biggar Common Project was another upland forestry operation that was initiated when a moorland area, known never to have been under cultivation, was deep furrow ploughed in readiness for planting.

The initial finds, reported by Martain Brown, a member of Lanark and District Archaeology Society, were a stone axe and hammer stone lying side by side among pieces of Early Neolithic pottery.

Field walking the Biggar Common area

Volunteers field walking

Biggar Common West

A major fieldwalking exercise was undertaken by the LADAS and Biggar volunteers and a long mound and five round cairns - possible burial sites - were identified and further concentrations of Early Neolithic pottery were found.

Three large cairns were located and surveyed in time to save them from the plough. They are now Scheduled Ancient Monuments lying within the larger scheduled zone that encompasses the area that yielded evidence indicative of an Early Neolithic settlement.

Excavations at Biggar Common

Excavations Biggar Common East

Historic Scotland funded the excavation of the long mound and two of the round cairns that were seriously damaged by ploughing, while the LADAS/BMT team carried out a number of excavations within the scatter of Early Neolithic pottery.

Excavation showed that the long mound was a complex, multi-phase monument of early Neolithic date, which contained two secondary burials of a later date. From one of these three Early Bronze Age beakers were recovered, along with a polished stone axe. In the second grave in the same mound, a perfect Seamer Axe and a dagger of Yorkshire flint were found lying adjacent to one another.

The excavations in the artefact scatters by the LADAS/BMT members revealed evidence for widespread Neolithic domestic activity, including the largest known assemblages of Early Neolithic pottery so far found in Scotland, with hundreds of pots being represented in the sherds from post-built structures, presumably houses. Carbon 14 dates, funded by Historic Scotland, were all indicative of an Early Neolithic date.

Reference

Daniel A Johnston. 1997. Biggar Common, 1987-93: an early prehistoric funerary and domestic landscape in Clydesdale, South Lanarkshire. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquarians of Scotland, Vol. 127, 185-225

Biggar Common East

When the eastern end of Biggar Common was ploughed up for grass re-seeding the writer inspected the ground with members of the Biggar YAC. Despite a howling gale, a fine flint scraper was found on the newly ploughed ground.

Some of the pottery found during excavations

Some of the pottery, and lithics found at Biggar Common West

The area was re-visited by the YAC members in the following spring when the ground had been seeded and rolled, and the new grass was just emerging. Within minutes, sherds of Early Neolithic pottery were being picked up. The writer urged the young archaeologists to look for pitchstone fragments and, immediately, these began to be picked up, along with a range of flint and chert materials. Permission was then asked of an amazed farmer if we could dig up his new grass!

Fortunately he agreed. Two main trenches were opened over areas of Early Neolithic pottery and huge assemblages were found, equalling that from the other end of the Common. More importantly, we found numerous pits and spreads of charcoal, including a hearth full of carbonised hazel nutshells. Radiocarbon analyses, funded by Historic Scotland, provided Early Neolithic dates.

One area was test-pitted and a small assemblage of Grooved Ware was found - the first ever to be found in Lanarkshire. Charcoal was present but, as the contexts were insecure, no radiocarbon dating was carried out.

Carwood pit excavation

Carwood pit excavation

Carwood Farm

In the spring of 2007, fieldwalking in Carwood Farm, about a kilometre north-east of Biggar Common, produced a rather sporadic scatter of material although one area showed a somewhat greater concentration. Further fieldwalking in 2008 produced a similar distribution of finds but closer inspection of the ground revealed, in addtition,  carbonised hazelnut shell and a few pieces of Early Neolithic pottery.

This combination could only mean that in situ archaeology had been disturbed by the recent ploughing. An excavation soon confirmed this. Numerous lithic and pottery objects were retrieved from the plough soil and several pits were located, cut into the natural substrate which here consisted of glacial till. The pits contained further finds and charcoal-rich fills. These were sampled.

At the time of writing, this project has been resumed and more information on the current excavations can be found on the Carwood Farm in our News pages.