The undisturbed dead
Carn Ban is a chambered burial cairn about 30m long and 18m wide. Uphill, at the north-east end is a semi-circular forecourt which would once have formed an impressive entrance to the cairn.
Inside is a slab-built chamber measuring 5.7m long and 2.4m high, divided into four compartments by small slabs.
Perhaps owing to its remote location, Carn Ban escaped the disturbance suffered by many other cairns, having only been excavated once by the antiquarian T H Bryce in 1902.
Bryce recovered a few artefacts from the chamber, including worked stone and fragments of burned and unburned bone.
Chambered cairns occur in various forms across Scotland and much of north-west Europe. They may reflect a common set of beliefs, including a belief in the afterlife.
Evidence suggests that these Neolithic cairns remained in use for as long as 1,000 years and continued to be special places within the landscape for later communities. Studies of these monuments may help us understand and appreciate the beliefs of these ancient communities.
In the past, prehistoric monuments like Carn Ban seem to have been regarded with trepidation by the local islanders. Writing in 1873, antiquarian J MacArthur noted ‘the feelings of superstitious dread with which these monuments are generally regarded’ when discussing excavations at another cairn at Torrylin.