Cille Pheadair Square Cairn in South Uist, The Burial Cairn of the Pictish Kilpheder Kate

In front of the Kildonan Centre on South Uist is the Cille Pheadair Square Cairn, the reconstructed burial cairn of a Pictish woman who lived around 1,300 years ago.

In 1998 archeologists found an unusual, square burial cairn being eroded by the sea on the beach at Cille Pheadair in South Uist. It was built out of a kerb of vertical slabs enclosing sand and stones, covered by a capping of beach pebbles. The tomb originally had four cornered posts and bore a close resemblance to those found in Shetland.

The kern had been erected on top of a grave made from vertical stones and covering slabs. Inside the grave were the bones of a woman aged about 40, and a single grave good of a pebble below her waist.

She was buried in around 700AD, the time of the Pictish Kindoms in Eastern and Northern Scotland. Her burial cairn is one of a small group known in the Uists and Barra. Burials like this were rare in Western Scotland and it is believed that ‘Kilpheder Kate’, as she became known, may have been an important person. There were many Pictish settlements in South Uist, however it has been discovered that she was not a local, due to the high levels of isotope in her teeth. She probably had connections with the Pictish kingdoms, possibly in the Northern Isles.

Kate suffered from arthritis in her spine, right thumb and jaw. Her teeth were very worn, probably caused by grit in the bread, from milling with coarse grinding stones. Interestingly, her diet included very little fish or seafood. There are no indications as to how she died, however before the cairn was built on top of the tomb someone removed her breastbone, moved her hand from her chest to her side and twisted her body on to its side. Nobody knows whether these acts were a part of a strange ritual, a violent desecration or a means of putting her ghost to rest.


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  • Information sign at Cille Pheadair Square Cairn

Cille Pheadair Square Cairn in South Uist, The Burial Cairn of the Pictish Kilpheder Kate

by Uncover Travel time to read: 1 min
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