Excavations in the ceremonial complex of the fourth to 2nd millennium BC at Balfarg/Balbirnie, Glenrothes, Fife

Gordon J Barclay (Author)


Christopher J Russell-White (Author)

Lin Barnetson (Contributor)

Jaqueline Birnie (Contributor)

Gordon Cook (Contributor)

Trevor Cowie (Contributor)

Magnar Dalland (Contributor)

Jane Downes (Contributor)

Alan Fairweather (Contributor)

Audrey Henshall (Contributor)

David Hogg (Contributor)

David Jordan (Contributor)

Rod McCullagh (Contributor)

Valerie McLellan (Contributor)

Brian Moffat (Contributor)

David Reed (Contributor)

Colin Richards (Contributor)

Ian Shepherd (Contributor)

Helen Smith (Contributor)

P Nicholas Tavener (Contributor)

Caroline Wickham-Jones (Contributor)

Mortuary, Burial, Pottery Vessels, Vessels, Balfargbalbirnie Ceremonial, Balbirnie Stone, Timber Structures, Charcoal, Pottery, Radiocarbon Dates, Timber, Grooved Ware, Stone, Circular Ditched Enclosure, Balfarg Henge, Ceremonial, Grooved Ware Vessels, Burials, Cremations
Scotland, UK
Prehistoric, Neolithic


The portions of the Balfarg/Balbirnie ceremonial complex excavated between 1983 and 1985 are described and related to the portions dug previously: Balbirnie stone circle (76/3594) and Balfarg henge (83/10516).The prehistoric ceremonial use of the area seems to have lasted from early in the third millennium until late in the second millennium BC (in terms of uncalibrated radiocarbon dates). The sequence began with pit-digging and pottery deposition in two parts of the site, near Balfarg Riding School (BRS) and to the west of Balfarg henge. Then, two timber structures, possibly with a mortuary function, were erected at BRS, probably in the early/mid third millennium BC (uncalibrated). The later of the two was mounded over and surrounded by a circular ditched enclosure (a henge?); this activity was associated with the deposition of Grooved Ware. At about the same time, at the west end of the site, a similar deposition of burnt and broken Grooved Ware predates the construction of the Balfarg henge, with its timber and stone circles, and there is evidence of the first use of the Balbirnie stone circle.Later in the third millennium BC (uncalibrated) and in the second millennium, during the prolonged use of the Balfarg henge and the Balbirnie stone circle, a complex sequence of events unfolds at BRS, including the digging of a ring--ditch and the erection of two concentric ring--cairns and a further cairn.Late in the use of the complex there are episodes of burial associated with Beaker and Food Vessel pottery. Most burials are simple cremations, mainly in the area of Balbirnie stone circle, all apparently late in the sequence of the sites on which they are found. At the west end of the complex, cremations were deposited in simple urns.There are specialist contributions as follows. `Summary report on the topography, soils and sediments' (54--6), `Soils buried beneath ring--cairn A' (121) by D Jordan; `The prehistoric pottery: an introduction to the reports' (56--7) and `Catalogues of pottery' (microfiche A5--C9) by T G Cowie & A S Henshall; `The Neolithic pottery: vessels P1--P40: plain Neolithic pottery (Group 1 & Group 2)' (65--76), `Later Neolithic Impressed Ware: vessels P83--P114' (121--6), `Beaker pottery: vessels P115--P153' (127--35), `The Food Vessels P154--P155' (138--40), and `The Bucket Urns: vessels P156--P158' (145--6) by T G Cowie; `The Grooved Ware: vessels P41--P82' (94--108) by A S Henshall; `Basketry and textile impressions on the Grooved Ware' (108) by V J McLellan; `An assessment of the residues on the Grooved Ware' (108--10) by B Moffat; `The jet: summary and discussion' (140--2) by I A G Shepherd; `The stone assemblage' (151--9) and `Catalogue of stone artefacts' (microfiche C10--D4) by C R Wickham--Jones & D Reed; `The charcoal samples and radiocarbon dates' (159--60) by G Cook & R McCullagh; `The calibration of the radiocarbon dates' (161) by M Dalland; `The fieldwalking exercise' (162--5) by J Downes & C Richards; `Contextual analysis of the Grooved Ware at Balfarg' (185--92) by C Richards; and `Analysis of the timber structures' (169--75) by D J Hogg. BOC


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How to Cite
Barclay, G., Russell-White, C., Barnetson, L., Birnie, J., Cook, G., Cowie, T., Dalland, M., Downes, J., Fairweather, A., Henshall, A., Hogg, D., Jordan, D., McCullagh, R., McLellan, V., Moffat, B., Reed, D., Richards, C., Shepherd, I., Smith, H., Nicholas Tavener, P., & Wickham-Jones, C. (1994). Excavations in the ceremonial complex of the fourth to 2nd millennium BC at Balfarg/Balbirnie, Glenrothes, Fife. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 123, 43-210. https://doi.org/10.9750/PSAS.123.43.210

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