Cairn (stone mound)

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Cairn (from Scottish Gaelic : cairn ') is based on the British Isles and possibly in France used name of an artificial mound of rubble or debris , the chambers of a Stone Age megalithic and other prehistoric objects such as stone boxes surrounded and were covered. The often round hills, which were framed by a stone circle ( ring cairn ) made of megaliths, dry stone masonry or (now obsolete) wooden stakes, also have complex shapes ( horned cairns or lobster cairns ) such as the cairns of Camster or three-armed shapes. There are Cairns such as Heapstown , Knocknarea or Keshcorran , where it is unclear what type of megalithic complex they contain due to the lack of excavation.


The mostly Neolithic Cairns are not to be confused with so-called cairns, piles of stones, which are sometimes also referred to as cairns. Burial mounds made of earth are called barrow in English and tumulus in French .


Cairns of the British Isles

There are chamber tombs ( English Chambered Cairns ) with round or elongated overhangs that cover a megalithic complex built during the Neolithic Age . Typically, the inner marginal chamber (also chambers) is larger than a stone box and contains burials that contain either excarnated bones or body graves or cremations. Chambered Cairns occur particularly in Scotland and Wales . Round shapes, as shown by one of the Cairns from Camster or the Clava Cairns , are juxtaposed with irregular shapes such as the group of Clyde Tombs and the Court Cairns , which are also known as horned or heel-shaped ( German  "paragraph-shaped" ) or D -shaped ( Ormiegill North , Pettigarths Field ). A group of East Scottish systems is referred to as chamberless longcairns ( German  "chamberless long hill" ). As large stones that could be worked with Stone Age methods were not available in this part of the country, the chambers of these facilities were pile dwellings, as they also occur in the context of the English barrows (mounds of earth). A varied form of Passage Tombs under Cairns is represented on the northern Scottish islands. At the Passage Tombs there are also combinations of stone and earth mounds. The Welsh systems can be distinguished in Langcairns (Welsh Carneddau cellog hir ) such as Capel Garmon and Rundcairns such as Bryn yr Hen Bobl . Roundcairns with stone boxes in the center ( Trewortha Cairn ) are common in Cornwall .

Irish island

There are over 500 Cairns in Ireland. The Cairns (A − M) of Carrowkeel in County Sligo and the 30 or so cairns of Loughcrew in County Meath , some of which are carved in rock , and those on the Slieve Gullion are round to oval. The cairns of Heapstown and Knocknarea in County Sligo are among the largest in Ireland. Long, complex cairns have most of the court tombs found primarily in the northern half of the island . The early Bronze Age wedge tombs have a wedge-shaped hill . Here it is often very short stone mounds that have a front facade ( forecourt ) made of larger stones on the straight or concave access side of the complex .

Most of the mounds of earth can be found on the eastern half of the Irish island. The most famous one contained the Linkardstown stone box and is from the Bronze Age . But also a number of portal tombs were probably covered by mounds of earth.


In France, cairn (or galgal ) are used to describe different types of stone setting. The place Carnac , where there are also around 3000 menhirs , derives its name from the synonymous Breton word Carn . In addition, there is the term tumulus (plur. Tumuli ), which primarily describes round or long hills heaped up from earth , which can contain one or more megalithic structures ( dolmen ) of different types (for example the tumulus of Kercado ).


In Apulia the up to 10 m high stone hills, which cannot be precisely classified there, are called Specchie .


A Bronze Age variant of the Cairns are the Scandinavian Röser ( Röjr ), which cover end-Neolithic stone boxes , especially in Sweden .

See also


  • P.-R. Giot: Prehistory in Brittany. Menhirs and dolmens . Editions d'Art Jos le Doaré, Chateaulin 1991, ISBN 2-85543-076-3 .
  • Frances Lynch: Megalithic tombs and Long Barrows in Britain . Shire, Princes Risborough 1997, ISBN 0-7478-0341-2 ( Shire archeology 73).
  • Elizabeth Shee Twohig: Irish Megalithic tombs . Shire, Princes Risborough 1990, ISBN 0-7478-0094-4 ( Shire archeology 63).

Web links

Commons : Cairn  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Cairns in France  - collection of images, videos and audio files