I mentioned earlier in this topic some articles I had with further information about the various archaeological discoveries made in Stevenston; and being since then in a better position to reproduce them, with the recent renewed interest in the Pun Wrae find: http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/images/l/589880/
I thought now might be a good time to add them here.
Although this was the second article to appear, I've put it first since it lists all the Stevenston finds and is also the one that deals with Pun Wrae , including an extra picture showing the items found with the cist. I'll add the earlier article , with its further details about the Misk Knowes find, afterwards.
Full acknowledgements for its use, as always , to the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald where it appeared in around 1972; and also in this case to its author Mr Alex Morrison .
RELICS OF STEVENSTON'S PAST- BRONZE AGE FINDS
By Alex Morrison MA, FSA Scot, lecturer in Archaeology, Glasgow University. Mr Morrison belongs to Stevenston.
A recent article on "Earliest inhabitants of Stevenston" mentioned the discovery of a cairn containing cinerary urns at Misk Knowes, Ardeer Sands in 1906. This was but one of several finds of Bronze Age date discovered in the area over the past 150 years. The number of known and recorded archaeological sites is only a very small fraction of the total discoveries made, most being lost or destroyed through ignorance or accident at a time when archaeological interest was not so widespread as it is at the present time.
The earliest known discovery was made in 1832 when some workmen were levelling a field near the present Ardeer Mains, then known as Little Dubbs. The men uncovered a cobbled stone pavement or causeway about 18 feet long by about 2 feet broad. At one end of this causeway was a boulder of about a ton weight and at the other a stone coffin or "cist" 3 feet in length by 2 feet in breadth. The cist contained two urns and five buttons of polished jet. Little more can be said about this discovery since no further details of the urns and buttons, nor their whereabouts, are known.
On 3rd July, 1895, when foundations were being dug at the Pun Brae (in the vicinity of present-day Schoolwell Street and Alexander Place ) , a stone cist measuring about 4 feet by 2 feet was discovered. The cist contained an urn and also associated were stone clublike implements. This picture of the finds was taken at the time by Mr A W Donaldson, the registrar and parish clerk of Stevenston:
The urn is of a type known as a Food Vessel, the name arising from a supposition that the vessel was meant to contain a food offering for the dead person. In a cist burial, the body was usually laid on its side, the knees drawn up in a crouched position, and often accompanied by a vessel and implements of flint or stone.
The second method of disposal of the dead in the Bronze Age was by cremation, and this is represented by the cairn containing cinerary urns which was found at at Misk Knowes . After cremation, the ashes were collected and sometimes cleaned and washed then placed in a cinerary urn. It is not unusual that such an urn should be discovered in an inverted position since many seem to have been intended as covers for the ashes rather than receptacles. At least three of the urns in the Misk Knowes cairn were inverted.
A model of a cross-section of the cairn was made for the Scottish Exhibition in Glasgow in 1911, and part of this is still to be seen in the Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove. The white quartz pebbles also found there have been associated with burials throughout prehistoric times and down until fairly recently. They may have been selected for their whiteness and smoothness, or perhaps as "lucky stones."
Also in the first decade of this century, two highly-decorated Food Vessels were discovered with burials in stone cists at Townhead, Stevenston. The exact location is not known and all survives is a few fragments of the Food Vessels.
At a much later date, in May,1969, during the cutting of a trench downhill from High Road to Boglemart Street across the eastern end of Auchenharvie Estate, workmen uncovered one end of a stone cist. On investigation the cist was discovered to be filled with sand.
No trace of a body was found, the sandy soil not being conducive to the preservation of bone, but the shreds of an almost complete Food Vessel were retrieved from a corner of the cist. A few days later, a second cist was discovered at the opposite side of the same trench. If was covered by a roughly circular stone slab supported by a packing of large stones. The cist was completely filled with very sandy soil, but very careful excavation showed that it had contained a crouched burial, the outline of which had been preserved by staining in the sand. The stone slabs of the second cist were recovered by Mr Owen Kelly and are now in the North Ayrshire Museum.
All of these discoverers belong to the Bronze Age, a prehistoric period stretching from about 1800 BC to as late as 400 or 300BC, although the Stevenston finds probably belong to a time between 1800BC and 1200BC. Most of our evidence for the Bronze Age comes from burials such as those mentioned, and we know very little about the everyday life of the period. Occasional finds of flint arrowheads and other implements have been made in Ardeer Sands over the past hundred years or so, but so far no trace of what might be described as a dwelling-site has been found.
A distribution map of such finds would show quite a concentration in the Stevenston area, and also in the Seamill/West Kilbride and Largs areas,all close to the coast. It would be interesting to believe that these areas had some particular importance in the Bronze Age, but unfortunately such a map would simply show that there are regions where archaeological activity has been greater than elsewhere, where people have been more than usually observant, or where luck has played a large part .