PREHISTORIC finds are not only of interest to archaeologists but locals too and one such find was a cist at Cunninghar in Tillicoultry in the autumn of 1894.

Mr R Robertson, a fellow of the Scottish Antiquaries, visited the site following the discovery of an urn that April. He was intrigued by a protruding stone that he thought had been the centre of a Druidical circle. It turned out to be a cover for a cist. He informed the estate owner Robert George Wardlaw Ramsay immediately.

Shortly afterwards, this stone fell away from its sandy embankment, bringing with it an end and a side of the cist.

Along with Rev R Paul, Robertson carefully examined the site. The cist, formed of four rough slabs with the two sides longer than the ends, measured 1.44m (4 feet 9 inches) in length, 1.37m (2 1/2 feet) in breadth and 60cm (2 feet deep).

The grey granite cover measured approximately 1.82m (nearly 6 feet) in length, 1.36m (4 ½ feet) broad with an average thickness of 60cm (2 feet).

Inside was a food vessel urn, perfectly preserved. It was covered in zigzag cord markings made in the wet clay.

There were eight knobs or ears placed equally around the shoulder although two had been broken off. It also had two holes pierced in it, but they were too small for rope for it to be carried. This meant it pre-dated the more common urns found.

Also discovered were long bones of an adult human skeleton and several teeth. Pebbles were found which may have covered the floor of the cist but are thought to be more symbolic, meaning the body and cist dated from the Bronze Age, an extremely rare find in Scotland.

Hair or fibres found where the head once lay were analysed by Professor John Struthers. Initially it was assumed to be human but was not, leading to the possibility of fur from a dog, fox or rabbit where the head had been rested in death.

The covering block was ornately carved. On its sides and upper surface were cups, concentric circles, spirals and straight lines.

The circles follow the uneven surface of the granite. Cutting these patterns into granite with primitive tools would have been an arduous task so the person buried must have been important.

Granite is not local but may have been carried during the Ice Age and deposits made on the surface of the Ochils.

This ornate stone was removed from Cunninghar to Tillicoultry House. It is not known where it lies today.