Another feature of Indigenous culture common
in the Beacon Hill Park area were burial
cairns or mounds composed of boulders, stones, and dirt. These cairns occurred
in many different shapes and sizes and were often located on prominent
hillsides. They varied in diameter from one to ten meters and were up to two
meters in height.
Beneath these cairns the deceased was
usually placed in a shallow grave lined with stones. Rocks of various sizes and
dirt were placed over the body and then large boulders placed around or on top
of this cluster.
Burial cairns once extended from the top of
Beacon Hill down the south-east slope. It was stated in 1858: “An attentive
observer will note circles, and that a center mound is within each located near
the base of the present flag staff was excavated. In it were found human
remains and part of a cedar bark mat for wrapping the body.”
In 1871, James Deans, Victoria’s first
notable archaeological enthusiast, mentioned that at least 23 cairns “dot the summit
and sides of Beacon Hill, some of which are surrounded with a circular thicket
In 1897, Deans observed that many of the
surface boulders of cairns had been removed. Since the turn of the century,
many more of the cairn boulders have been removed, or shoved to new locations.
By the 1970s, only one intact cairn and the circular bases of several others
embedded in the ground could be seen down the slope of the hill. In 1986,
scattered boulders from some of the original cairns were moved and used in the
reconstruction of four burial cairns. These cairn reconstructions resemble some
of those observed in the 19th century. The bases of some partially intact
cairns can still be seen close to the reconstructed ones.