Neolithic Bute

During the Neolithic Period (approx 4500 -2200 B.C.) people became more settled than their hunter-gatherer predecessors of the Mesolithic period. They cleared land for farming and settled in one place, which led to a more community-orientated way of life. These Neolithic farmers used community effort to construct chambered cairns for the burial of the dead. Grave goods were often deposited with the dead in order to help them in the afterlife. These would include vessels containing food and drink and tools such as stone axes or flint knives.
There are several well-preserved Neolithic tombs on Bute, mostly at the North end. One is the long cairn known as Cairnbaan, the white cairn, which is situated in Lenihuline Wood. This impressive monument stretches for 30 metres with stone chambers at the top and bottom of the cairn.


Cairnbaan – the long cairn in Lenihuline Wood

Another spectacular example of a chambered cairn is the one at Glenvoidean. Excavated in the 1960s by Dorothy Marshall, this site contained some wonderful examples of Neolithic pottery now on display in the museum.


Neolithic pottery vessel

Domestic sites from Neolithic times are rare because the houses would have been constructed of wood. However, at the beginning of the 20th century, a domestic site was discovered in a gravel pit at Townhead in Rothesay. A variety of goods were discovered including a quernstone, pottery and tools. These give a rare glimpse of how people lived rather than how they were buried in Neolithic times.


The quern stone from Townhead