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Excavation

Date 6 August 2012 - 26 August 2012

Event ID 993254

Category Recording

Type Excavation

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/event/993254

NO 0193 1586 As part of Phase 2 of the SERF Project an exploratory excavation was undertaken 6–26 August 2012 in three locations within the Leadketty cropmark complex. The cropmarks at Leadketty were initially recorded in 1970 by CUCAP, and regular repeat flying since 1976 by RCAHMS has revealed a remarkable complex of cropmarks across two large fields 1km to the N of the village of Dunning. Cropmarks indicate that this was the location of a substantial Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age ceremonial centre, including a massive palisaded enclosure, several hengiform enclosures, a four-poster setting, multiple barrows, ring ditches and pits, and a range of sub-circular enclosures of unknown date, one of which may be a causewayed enclosure. Leadketty is comparable to the prehistoric cropmark complex at Forteviot, 4km to the E, which was the focus of SERF excavations between 2007 and 2010 (DES 2008, 145-6 and DES 2009, 150 etc). The 2012 excavations were preceded by a targeted geophysical survey in Spring 2012 (see entry above). The three areas excavated were chosen to establish the survival of the archaeological traces, to provide comparative data to Forteviot and to assess the geophysics results.

Trench 1 focused on one of the features recorded within the palisaded enclosure, a square setting of four features suspected to be of later Neolithic date and thus perhaps contemporary with the use of the palisaded enclosure itself. This site was interpreted in the NMRS as a four-poster stone circle, but we felt that it was more likely that this was a timber setting, and this was confirmed by our excavation. The four-post setting was identified in the E half of the trench and consisted of four large postholes. These formed a square with each post c3m apart (measured from the approximate centre of the postholes). Two further postholes sat just to the NE of the square setting forming a ‘porch-like’ setting. These postholes were all c0.5m deep and no more than 1m in diameter, with clear post-pipes. Significant quantities of pottery were found in these features, some of which was Grooved Ware. Carbonised material was also found in these postholes, as were a few worked lithics. A series of other features were identified in this trench, some of which may be related to the four-post setting. These included a group of small postholes which seem to have formed a circular setting. These were 5–8m from the centre of the four-post setting with the majority lying on the circumference of 7–8m diameter circular setting. Some of these postholes showed signs of burning, notably in the N half of the setting. A series of pits, some intercutting, were located to the W of the four-poster; however, their relationship to this structure is unknown. Other features found within this trench included a series of slots, some of which may have once held wicker fences. The Leadketty four-poster is part of an increasingly recognized Late Neolithic tradition of architecture that extended across large areas of Britain and Ireland – timber structures defined by central square post settings with encircling timber circles or wall lines. These structures appear to encompass sites interpreted as both domestic sites and ceremonial monuments dating to the period 3000–2500 cal BC.

Trench 2 focused on a small henge-like enclosure within the palisaded enclosure. The mini-henge was defined by a wide but shallow ditch; the ditch was investigated through three slot trenches, and was 3–4m wide and up to 0.7m deep. At least one re-cut of the ditch was recognised, and in one location the ditch may have cut an earlier pit or postholes. The henge interior was a relatively small area, no more than 8m across while entrance to the henge was via a narrow causeway; no evidence for an external bank was found. A substantial cut feature was found towards the W half of the henge interior. This feature was c2.45m in diameter and up to 1.5m deep.The identification of a possible post-pipe and substantial stonework found towards the base and near the edges of this feature suggests that this pit once held a massive post. The relationship between post and mini-henge is unclear. The size and form of this henge suggests that is may be Bronze Age in date.

Trench 3 was located to investigate the N side of the huge palisaded enclosure near the single entrance avenue. Cropmarks suggest that this enclosure measures c400m E–W, and 250m N–S, with the S being an escarpment and river. The boundary itself consisted, as our excavations revealed, of timber posts, arranged c2–3m apart. Two entrance postholes, and seven boundary posts were excavated. The avenue postholes were large, and showed evidence for intensive burning of the posts. Sherds of Grooved Ware and worked lithics were recovered from these features. The boundary posts were less substantial, alternating between large and smaller postholes. No features were found between these postholes. Four palisaded enclosures of this nature have been recorded as cropmarks in Scotland, and excavations at the other three – Forteviot, Dunragit and Meldon Bridge suggest a Late Neolithic date.

The excavations suggest that this monument complex differs in key aspects to the Forteviot complex, in terms of the nature of the palisaded enclosure, the types of activities and structures within the enclosure, and depositional practices. Post-excavation analysis and radiocarbon dating will allow us to make more meaningful comparisons with Forteviot in the near future.

Archive: University of Glasgow and RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland and University of Glasgow

K Brophy, University of Glasgow

A Gould, University of Glasgow

G Noble, University of Aberdeen

D Wright, University of Glasgow

R Younger, University of Glasgow

2012

People and Organisations

References