Dying in a Sacred Landscape

Death rituals were important at the Forteviot complex. As at Stonehenge, they include rare Neolithic cremation burials of at least nine individuals which probably served as the focus for the later monuments. Fragments of eight bone pins suggest cremation in clothing or a shroud. This group may represent a significant family whose burial marked Forteviot out as a centre of power, one recognised by monument construction over subsequent centuries.

Burials resumed 1000 years later. The Early Bronze Age dagger burial was carefully positioned to occupy part of the henge ditch, while leaving the centre of the henge and the Neolithic cemetery clear. Amongst the other burials within the complex was a triple cist which appears to have included a standing stone within its structure. When cremation again became the preferred burial rite in the later Bronze Age, the graves often included pottery, such as the little chafing cup or were placed in ‘food vessels’.

An iron spear head and blue glass bead from within a henge ditch hint at an Iron Age burial. But it is the Pictish barrows which show how the Neolithic monuments influenced the community at Forteviot for millennia.

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