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Publication Account

Date 17 December 2011

Event ID 923980

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/event/923980

The Roman fort on Croy Hill was first discovered during excavations by Macdonald in 1920, following earlier antiquarian reports. In 1925, Macdonald noted the remains of a ditch that could have belonged to an earlier ‘lay out’ of the fort (Macdonald 1925: 289). Further excavations in 1931 clarified the plan of the Antonine fort, and discovered an ‘older fort’ lying beneath it, at that stage presumed to be one of the Agricolan praesidia on the isthmus (Macdonald 1934: 267–8).

This older ‘fort’ or enclosure measures some 67m from north west to south-east by almost 49m, enclosing an area of 0.32ha (0.8 acres). An annexe is located to the southeast, which approximately doubles the total area enclosed from 0.32ha to about 0.6ha, and there is an additional small stretch of ditch leading from the south-east corner of the annexe, interpreted as being for drainage purposes by Macdonald (1932: 265–6). (Illus 217 is based on drawings in Hanson 1979.)

Hanson undertook further excavations on the underlying enclosure in 1975 and 1977. His excavations demonstrated that it was Antonine in date on the basis of pottery found in the ditch, and indeed no evidence for Flavian occupation was found (Goodburn 1976: 302). A nearby fortlet, some 100m to the west, was discovered during the 1977 excavations, leading Hanson to suggest that the enclosure underneath the fort was the construction camp for the fortlet (Goodburn 1978: 413–15), while noting that it was considerably smaller than any other presumed construction camp on the Wall (Hanson and Keppie 1978: 93). The ditch of this presumed construction camp varied in width from 1m to 2.3m and in depth from 0.3m to 1m. It had apparently lain open for some time before being deliberately backfilled with clay and large stones, attested to where the fort rampart overlay the ditch (Hanson 1977; Hanson 1979: 19). The small ‘drainage’ ditch noted by Macdonald leading southeast from the annexe was recorded as merging with the ditch dug for a Roman road taking traffic around the fort, thereby adding weight to the suggestion of an Antonine date (Hanson 1979: 19).

Since the time of its discovery by Macdonald, the enclosure on Croy Hill has been associated with the nearby ‘fortlet’ on Bar Hill (Macdonald 1934: 273) and potentially with other ‘Agricolan praesidia’ on the Forth– Clyde isthmus. The dating of the enclosure on Croy Hill to the Antonine period has led its neighbour under the fort at Bar Hill to also be associated with the 2nd century ad, prior to the Antonine Wall forts that subsequently occupied both positions (Hanson 1980: 60). However, as with Bar Hill, this enclosure is located close to the highest point on Croy Hill, with excellent views to the east along the line of the Antonine Wall and west towards Bar Hill. The possibility exists that both could have housed garrisons engaged in surveying the Wall.

R H Jones.

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