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The Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society

Artefacts

Pygmy vessel, Kirkmahoe

Period:
Bronze Age
Description:

A plain pygmy cup with straight sides tapering to a thick flat base, with two pairs of holes pierced through the wall at opposite sides. This cup has Orange-pink surfaces, and is made from clay and buff ware. Unfortunately part of the rim is missing. Despite their name these were not cups as they are too full of holes to have held liquid!

 

The site the object was found on is a cremation cemetery, and consists of a circular, turf covered stone bank about 14 metres in diameter and over half a metre high. It was excavated in 1962 when eight cremation pits containing human bones, and two pits filled with black ash were found. One of the cremation pits also contained this pygmy cup.

 

The Society contacted Dr Anderson of the Antiquarian Museum, Edinburgh concerning a similar pygmy cup find in Dumfries. He replied,

 

"The purpose of these tiny vessels has given rise to a variety of conjectures. It has been suggested that they may have been censers or incense cups, or lamps, or salt-cellers or vessels for carrying the sacred fire that was to light the funeral pile, or cups for the strong drink that was required on the occasion of the funeral feast, or vessels destined to contain the ashes of the brain or heart, or for the bones of an infant sacrificed on the death of its mother. All these conjectures are equally probable, inasmuch as they are all equally unsupported by evidence"

Place of Discovery:
Whitestanes Moor, Kirkmahoe
Dimensions:
height: 70 mm diameter (base): 40 mm diameter (rim): 80 mm
Source:
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
Accession number:
1963.139.1
Digital Number:
RPD0095