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Date 1998

Event ID 1002714

Category Recording

Type Excavation


NY 027 654. Excavation and survey was undertaken in 1998 on the site of the earlier of the two 13th-century castles built by the Maxwells at Caerlaverock. The first or 'Old' Castle is believed to have been established in the 1220s and abandoned 50 years later in favour of the surviving triangular plan castle. The aim of the work is to inform a scheme for the laying-out and interpretation of the site to visitors.

Fieldwork commenced in February with trial trenching and augering within the flat-bottomed basin immediately to the S of the castle mound, presumed to have been a contemporary harbour. No evidence of a revetment for the bank bounding the harbour was found, although only the N side of the harbour was tested. The upper part of the bank separating the harbour from the castle moat was demonstrated to consist of clean redeposited natural silt and clay, mounded over a layer of decayed turf. This may be interpreted as the marking out of the line of the bank in turf prior to the deposition of further material (excavated from the harbour and castle moat), in the same manner as the earthworks of the later castle. The presumed floor of the harbour basin was encountered just 0.5m below the present ground surface. No finds of any sort were recovered.

Fieldwalking in the surrounding woods revealed a previously unmapped sub-rectangular enclosure 70m to the SW of the castle mound. The enclosure, c 70m N-S by 50m E-W, is enclosed on the W, N, and E sides by a low bank (c 0.3m high by 2m wide) with an external ditch just perceptible. The S side of the enclosure is formed by a long double-banked earthwork, mapped by the OS and enclosing a much larger area. The dates of both features are unknown.

The main focus of the 1998 fieldwork was excavation on the 27 x 27m top of the castle mound, undertaken from mid-June to mid-September. Despite extensive robbing of the masonry of the wall footings, a sequential structural development was revealed. Building appears to have started in the E corner with a two-storied block, measuring c 10.5 x 7.5m externally. It was built upon a foundation trench filled with layers of large river cobbles, and there was evidence for an external stair. A stone curtain wall was subsequently built around the mound perimeter and further internal buildings of stone added along the SE and SW sides. That along the SW side measures c 15 x 6.5m internally, with no internal divisions apparent, suggesting a ground-floor hall. However, both the curtain wall and the buildings of this second phase of work were built directly onto the natural silt and clay with no proper foundations. Structural movement is apparent in surviving stretches of walling, and it was perhaps in response to this that external towers were added to the N, W, and S corners of the curtain wall.

The excavations produced a large assemblage of good quality, probably locally produced, green-glazed pottery thought to be of 13th-century date.

Post-demolition activity on the castle mound included the construction of a keyhole-shaped oven, and smithing activity.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

M L Brann 1998

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