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Date 25 April 2017 - 20 May 2017

Event ID 1040585

Category Recording

Type Excavation


NO 1362 1999 Phase 3 of a programme of archaeological work was undertaken, 25 April – 20 May 2017, at the hillfort of Moredun Top by Tay Landscape Partnership, led by Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust and delivered by AOC Archaeology Group and local volunteers.

Five trenches were excavated, placed to investigate structures identified during topographic surveys and further explore features and areas uncovered in the 2015 and 2016 excavations. These included: circular structures, potentially roundhouses; a monumental structure, of which the exterior was investigated in 2016; a rampart wall discovered at the end of the 2016 season; and a pond feature. Excavations focused on four key areas across the hillfort: the upper area with two trenches excavated on the rampart wall identified through a sondage late in the 2016 season, and a more formal curvilinear structure found alongside a topographically identified circular structure (Trench A and B); the monumental stone structure located in the lower area (Trench C); a pond feature, located to the S of the large stone structure (Trench D).

The rampart wall, identified in Trench A in 2016 was monumental in scale, in parts stretching to >5m wide. This structure had an easily identifiable inner and outer face. As well as occupation layers, a possible hearth stone feature was identified above the rampart. A buried ground surface was exposed in a sondage against the inner face of the rampart, with no associated finds. Within the rampart were various pairs of stone alignments, probably representing voids for rampart timbers.

The curvilinear course of stone uncovered in the 2016 Trench B sondage was further explored to expose a further curved section of stone. This stone is likely to form part of a penannular structure, possibly an enclosure. Several artefacts were uncovered from the area abutting the enclosure, including a carved stone lamp, flint blade, linear decorated prehistoric ceramic and a spindle whorl.

The interior of the structure explored in Trench C showed evidence for a hearth feature, in situ burned interior deposits and evidence for interior timbers. The inner burned deposits may represent a destruction layer, as also seen in the orange/ black burning evidence in the entranceway during the 2016 excavations. Close to the hearth, amongst this interior burned deposit, was a cache of at least six bone points. Dense charcoal lenses provide evidence for likely timbers, either from the roof or structure itself (possibly in situ floor planks) or representative of an internal screening or partition. Further timber evidence was discovered in the interior of the entrance passageway.

An area of quarried bedrock and a rock cut face probably led to the retention of water in the pond area of Trench D. However, it is hard to ascertain if this was done intentionally, bedrock quarrying is present across the site. To the E of this feature is evidence for a palisade cut, as well as a possible enclosure wall. The system of ramparts investigated in Trench E showed multiple reuse of material over time. The outer wall of the dun feature in Trench C was identified, with a fill of compacted stone and possible kerbing. This material was later reused to form a bank, formed of large sub-rounded and squared stones, sat on a shattered stone layer. Post-dating the dun collapse and creation of this later bank, was a further rampart. Timber, debris and tumble was identified throughout the sloped trench, from the various structures. An original ground surface was present beneath the various structures and was exposed in three distinct areas of the trench.

The 2017 evidence helped to clarify the preceding excavations at Moredun, as well as add new information relating to the use, longevity and possible occupation of the hillfort complex. We have various finds suggesting occupation, including hints of a shale working industry, a spindle whorl, ceramic, two carved stone lamps found in different locations (2016: Trench C; 2017: Trench B) and in situ floor deposits in the internal areas of the dun structure in Trench C. The work has also highlighted the monumentality of the structures of Moredun; the dun structure in Trench C and the rampart in Trench A, as well as the reuse of material to form outer ramparts, probably after the collapse of the dun. Evidence for bedrock quarrying may provide an explanation for the nature of the pond feature. Also, further exploration of the structure in Trench B has found further artefacts to complement the decorative pin (2016), including a piece of linear decorated ceramic pottery. The artefact assemblage of coarse stone tools, pottery and metal objects, matched with the nature of the features investigated supports activity spanning from the Iron Age to early historic period.

Archive: NRHE (intended)

Funder: Tay Landscape Partnership

David Strachan, Martin Cook, Sophie Nicol and Katie Roper – Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, Tay Landscape Partnership and AOC Archaeology Group

(Source: DES, Volume 18)

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