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Archaeological Evaluation

Date January 2015

Event ID 1026275

Category Recording

Type Archaeological Evaluation


NH 6400 4527 In January 2015, severe winter storms caused significant damage to Craig Phadrig Hillfort after two windblown trees exposed a section of the inner rampart at the N end of the site. Prior to consolidation and reinstatement of the damaged area, a small archaeological evaluation was carried out, 9–18 February 2015, to assess the level of damage and record the nature of surviving archaeological deposits within the tree exposures. Clean-up of the exposed sections revealed considerable vitrified and heat-affected stone throughout the upper rampart. The tree root plates had significantly damaged the core of the upper rampart bank and the inner wall face of the main rampart.

The evaluation trench revealed that a palisade ditch had been cut through the top of the collapsed rampart. The slot, which yielded no vitrified stone, contained a compact layer of cobbles and charcoal-rich fill overlain by possible post settings at each end of the exposed slot. A birch charcoal sample from the lower fill of the ditch produced a date of 416–556 cal AD (95.4% probability, SUERC-62801). Charred hazelnut shell from above the upper stone settings produced a date of 1036-1206 cal AD (95.4% probability, SUERC-62799).

There was other evidence for secondary reuse of the inner rampart. Collapsed rampart core had been reformed into an upper bank with an inner kerb stone setting that respected a posthole [033] on the inside of the bank as well as the possible post settings over the palisade ditch. A birch charcoal sample from the lower fill of posthole [033] produced a date of 1018- 1155 cal AD (95.4% probability, SUERC-62800). Within the interior space of the hillfort, a pit containing burnt material was revealed in section at the SE end of the trench. The pit had cut through the highest layer of collapsed stone. A sample of charred hazelnut shell from the upper fill of the pit produced a date of 1028–1183 cal AD (95.4% probability, SUERC-63280).

The evaluation trench also revealed that the main rampart consisted of a 6.5m wide wall with interior and exterior built faces supporting loose wall core with evidence for structured layering. Radiocarbon dates from alder and birch charcoal samples taken from within the primary collapsed wall core against both outer and inner faces produced radiocarbon dates of 409–235 cal BC and 461–176 cal BC, respectively (95.4% probability, SUERC-63281 and SUERC-63285), providing the likely time period of the burning and abandonment of the primary structure.

Only a very small amount of environmental material and a small assemblage of animal bone were recovered, indicating the presence of pig and sheep and/or goat on the site. While there had been four samples of animal bone fragments selected for radiocarbon dating, all of them failed due to insufficient carbon.

The results have provided evidence that the inner rampart at Craig Phadrig was re-fortified after the primary burning event. At the same time, it also appears that the inner rampart was re-occupied, probably re-fortified for a third time during the 11-12th centuries.

Archive: National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) intended

Funder: Forestry Commission Scotland

Mary Peteranna – AOC Archaeology Group and West Coast Archaeological Services

(Source: DES, Volume 16)

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