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Excavation

Date July 2007

Event ID 577368

Category Recording

Type Excavation

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/event/577368

NS 557 627 The site occupies the crest of the elongated hill (a drumlin) occupied by the North Woods and is positioned to have a western prospect looking over the valley of the White Cart. The July 2007 excavations reopened 11 trenches of various sizes from excavations originally undertaken in 1959 and 1960. Several were extended to expose fresh sections and to obtain better profiles of the defences.

The site has been described as a ring-work and tentatively identified as a medieval structure. On the basis of the evidence uncovered and reported here, it is better to consider it as an Iron Age fort, the original interpretation of the 1959/60 excavators.

Trench A (approx 5 x 7m) was central in the hillfort. This trench revealed areas of cobble paving and fragmentary stretches of stone ‘walling’ and a substantial posthole, all of which suggests the presence of one or a sequence of buildings. In addition, a massive pillar of roughly worked sandstone, previously discovered in 1959, was examined. The original excavators posited that this formed a lintel for the entrance of a putative building. The scale of this stone (six people were required to drag it out of the trench) makes this most unlikely. Although the new excavations exposed to a greater extent the structural elements, insufficient was

revealed to allow these structures to be reconstructed. An in situ hearth was discovered, which provided a charcoal sample suitable for dating. Finds included half a cobble with a pecked hollow, possibly a lamp, and another cobble with hollows pecked on both sides.

Trench B (2 x 2m) was adjacent to the rampart on the N side. It exposed the rear of the rampart and a stony, curving linear feature (c0.4m wide) which was also seen in trenches C and D, and which may represent the footing of a roundhouse.

Trench C (1 x 3m) was adjacent to the rampart on the N side about 2m to the E of trench B. It also exposed the rear of the rampart and the curving linear feature seen in trenches B and D, which came within 0.5m of the rear of the rampart.

Trench D (1 x 11m) was adjacent to the rampart on the N side, about 1m to the E of trench C. Here the 1959/60

excavations had dug through the back edge of the rampart and some of the stony feature in trenches B and C. To the S of the linear feature there were no deposits until the S end of the trench (towards the centre of the hillfort) which was extended 1m beyond the 1959 extent. Here there was a posthole and a stony bank.

Trench E (5 x 2m) was also on the N side about 8m to the W of trench D. Within this trench were numerous deposits of tumbled rubble, some of which presumably relate to structures, but no coherent plans were recovered. The back of the rampart was partially excavated.

Trench F examined the rampart bank and external ditch in a trench (1 x 15m) on the NE side of the fort where the preservation was best. The rampart proved to be a simple dump rampart with little sign of structural components such as revetting or timber elements. The ditch showed no sign of ancient recuts or modifications. A modern drain had been excavated in the centre of the ditch but this did not penetrate the primary silts. There was over 1.5m of clayey silts in the base of the ditch, which was waterlogged. Sealed below the rampart were small fragments of charcoal which may provide material for C14 dating.

Trench G (1 x 2m) was towards the entrance on the N side behind the rampart. This revealed a boulder which

apparently served as a curb for the rampart and a well paved surface of large cobbles.

Trench H (2 x 8 m) was excavated across the entrance causeway. Here we extended the 1959 trench to expose the body part of the S rampart and to cut through the N rampart. Both ramparts used boulders as curbs to retain simple earthen dumps. The causeway itself was a finely paved surface made of split boulders and large cobbles approximately 5m wide.

Trenches J and K (1 x 4m and 1 x 1m) were on the line of the road. Both revealed the same well made surface extending off to the E for an indeterminate distance.

Trench K (1 x 1m) exposed the exterior of the bank on the NE exterior. Boulders had also been used here to retain the earthen rampart core.

In summary, the excavations revealed the presence of an impressive paved road starting some 15m or more beyond the hillfort and passing through the ramparts on a well-defined causeway. The interior contains the remains of several buildings with stone foundations set around a cobbled courtyard. Despite the large quantities of stone exposed within the interior it is believed that the buildings were timber, and several postholes were found. Not enough of the interior has been exposed to allow plans of the buildings to be recovered; it is not even possible to say whether the houses were round or rectangular.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Glasgow Archaeology Society

Stephen Discoll and Mark Mitchell (Glasgow Archaeology Society), 2008

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References