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Old Town Of Leys

Glassmaking Site (Iron Age), Metal Smelting Site (Iron Age), Metal Working Site (Iron Age), Palisaded Enclosure (Prehistoric), Roundhouse(S) (Iron Age), Brooch (Romano-british), Coin(S) (Roman), Slag (Iron Age)

Site Name Old Town Of Leys

Classification Glassmaking Site (Iron Age), Metal Smelting Site (Iron Age), Metal Working Site (Iron Age), Palisaded Enclosure (Prehistoric), Roundhouse(S) (Iron Age), Brooch (Romano-british), Coin(S) (Roman), Slag (Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) Culduthel

Canmore ID 163581

Site Number NH64SE 241

NGR NH 664 414

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/163581

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Inverness And Bona
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Inverness
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Archaeology Notes

NH64SE 241 664 414.

NH 664 414 In May 2005, an archaeological evaluation was undertaken on Phase 5 of a proposed housing development at Culduthel Mains Farm on the southern outskirts of Inverness. The main objective of this was to locate and investigate a palisaded enclosure (NH64SE 241) that was visible as a cropmark. The evaluation confirmed the location of the enclosure and uncovered a variety of features that proved some settlement activity was present inside the enclosure and across the whole evaluated area. This led to a full topsoil strip that uncovered the remains of a substantial Iron Age settlement and industrial centre to the NE and NW of the enclosure.

The oval enclosure measured 51 x 42m and had a 1.75m wide entrance that faced SW. Preservation was good and it survived to a depth of up to 0.8m. Packing stones were abundant throughout with two tiers of edge-set slabs forming packing at the terminals. Internal features consisted of a few truncated pits and postholes. A 'four-poster' was the only obvious structure.

As well as the enclosure, the site contained 17 roundhouses. Several of the buildings were preserved to an exceptional degree where hillwash had sealed a large area of Iron Age ground surface. The roundhouses formed an unenclosed settlement and varied in construction technique. All were constructed with an internal post-ring and most had an entrance porch facing NE. Two of the buildings had a ring-groove forming the outer wall and a penannular ring-ditch that contained the carbonised remains of the wooden superstructure and floor. The largest of these roundhouses measured 20m in diameter.

Eight iron-smelting furnaces were found within five buildings, identifying them as workshops. The furnaces comprised a base of large edge-set stones fused together with iron slag; all contained the remnants of the last firing. Some had the remains of a baked wattle and daub superstructure. Metalworking debris was abundant, particularly in the area of preserved ground surface, where many spreads of industrial waste had accumulated over a cobbled yard associated with the largest and most elaborate roundhouse. A total of 250kg of ferrous metalworking debris was recovered from across site, much of it in situ, making it the largest assemblage of Iron Age slag from mainland Scotland. Non-ferrous metalworking debris (copper alloy and lead) was present in much smaller quantities, along with crucible and clay mould fragments. A cobbled work surface measuring 50 x 12m was located in a long hollow c 100m E of the settlement. This was also littered with ironworking debris.

In total 171 iron objects were found, and were very well preserved. These included several ritually deposited weapons, a short sword, a spearhead and a dagger. Also present were tools used for working wood, metal, and leather as well as two sickles and a number of decorative objects. While copper alloy objects were less abundant, many were high status, such as an enamelled Romano-British bow and fantail brooch, an intricately decorated cruciform harness mount, a decorated sword-hilt guard and two Roman coins. These artefacts provisionally date this part of the settlement to the late 1st to early 2nd century AD.

Several types of glass bead were also recovered, as well as fragmented remains of a fine glass, possibly Roman, vessel. Evidence for the on-site manufacture of glass and enamel was found in the form of glass waste and small fragments of enamel waste. This is the first secure evidence of Iron Age glassworking from any Scottish site.

Another layer of hillwash beneath the Iron Age ground surface sealed two small cairns with a central pits that had been robbed out and backfilled during antiquity. One had been incorporated into the cobbled yard. The date of the cairns is not known at present, though they are likely to be Bronze Age. Flint tools and flakes were present in many contexts across site and are thought to residual evidence of earlier prehistoric activity. Several features were obviously earlier prehistoric based on artefactual evidence.

Two additional areas in the field S of Phase 5 were topsoil stripped for borrow pits. A total of 48 pits and postholes were uncovered. No structures were immediately obvious. Two pits contained Late Neolithic Grooved Ware. The majority of features contained flint flakes.

In addition to this a 5% evaluation was undertaken of Phases 7 and 8 as well as two small area strips; one during the excavation of phase 5, the other in September 2006. Two possible prehistoric structures were identified in the evaluation, the remains of a post-built structure in Trench 3 and a possible ring-groove in Trench 14. A large feature containing charcoal and fire-cracked stones was identified in Trench 8, and is thought to be the possible remains of a kiln. Prehistoric pottery, charred grain and apple pips were recovered from some of the postholes and the possible kiln. The majority of other features are undated isolated pits and postholes. Although no pottery was recovered from these features, the presence of a small amount of worked flint coupled with the nature of the charred plant remains indicates a Neolithic to Iron Age date.

The first area strip contained 30 pits and postholes forming no obvious structures. One pit contained several possible furnace bases, suggesting that the Iron Age industrial activity extended into this area. The second contained a small building consisting of a partial post-ring and two narrow gullies that formed the SE-facing entrance. A small curvilinear enclosure ditch was present 40m to the NE. This too had a SE-facing entrance. Approximately 50 pits/postholes were scattered across the remainder of the site; two contained pottery of Early Bronze Age and Mid Neolithic date. A small leaf-shaped arrowhead, the tip of a larger arrowhead and a scraper were the best examples from the lithic assemblage.

Archive to be deposited in NMRS. Report to be lodged with Highland Council SMR and NMRS.

Sponsor: Tulloch Homes Ltd.

Ross Murray, 2006.

Activities

Watching Brief (July 2005 - September 2005)

NH64SE 378 NH 664 415

NH 664 415 A watching brief was undertaken between July and September 2005 during the topsoil strip of a large field near Culduthel Farm, close to a known palisaded enclosure (NH64SE 241). The archaeological deposits, principally mid- and Late Iron Age, were found to be complex and well-preserved, including large roundhouses, cobbled surfaces, areas of metalworking and associated finds; evidence for a very large and high-status site.

Report lodged with Highland SMR.

Sponsor: Tulloch Homes.

S Buchanan, Alba Archaeology Ltd, 2005

Excavation (May 2005)

NH 664 414 In May 2005, an archaeological evaluation was undertaken on Phase 5 of a proposed housing development at Culduthel Mains Farm on the southern outskirts of Inverness. The main objective of this was to locate and investigate a palisaded enclosure (NH64SE 241) that was visible as a cropmark. The evaluation confirmed the location of the enclosure and uncovered a variety of features that proved some settlement activity was present inside the enclosure and across the whole evaluated area. This led to a full topsoil strip that uncovered the remains of a substantial Iron Age settlement and industrial centre to the NE and NW of the enclosure.

The oval enclosure measured 51 x 42m and had a 1.75m wide entrance that faced SW. Preservation was good and it survived to a depth of up to 0.8m. Packing stones were abundant throughout with two tiers of edge-set slabs forming packing at the terminals. Internal features consisted of a few truncated pits and postholes. A 'four-poster' was the only obvious structure.

As well as the enclosure, the site contained 17 roundhouses. Several of the buildings were preserved to an exceptional degree where hillwash had sealed a large area of Iron Age ground surface. The roundhouses formed an unenclosed settlement and varied in construction technique. All were constructed with an internal post-ring and most had an entrance porch facing NE. Two of the buildings had a ring-groove forming the outer wall and a penannular ring-ditch that contained the carbonised remains of the wooden superstructure and floor. The largest of these roundhouses measured 20m in diameter.

Eight iron-smelting furnaces were found within five buildings, identifying them as workshops. The furnaces comprised a base of large edge-set stones fused together with iron slag; all contained the remnants of the last firing. Some had the remains of a baked wattle and daub superstructure. Metalworking debris was abundant, particularly in the area of preserved ground surface, where many spreads of industrial waste had accumulated over a cobbled yard associated with the largest and most elaborate roundhouse. A total of 250kg of ferrous metalworking debris was recovered from across site, much of it in situ, making it the largest assemblage of Iron Age slag from mainland Scotland. Non-ferrous metalworking debris (copper alloy and lead) was present in much smaller quantities, along with crucible and clay mould fragments. A cobbled work surface measuring 50 x 12m was located in a long hollow c 100m E of the settlement. This was also littered with ironworking debris.

In total 171 iron objects were found, and were very well preserved. These included several ritually deposited weapons, a short sword, a spearhead and a dagger. Also present were tools used for working wood, metal, and leather as well as two sickles and a number of decorative objects. While copper alloy objects were less abundant, many were high status, such as an enamelled Romano-British bow and fantail brooch, an intricately decorated cruciform harness mount, a decorated sword-hilt guard and two Roman coins. These artefacts provisionally date this part of the settlement to the late 1st to early 2nd century AD.

Several types of glass bead were also recovered, as well as fragmented remains of a fine glass, possibly Roman, vessel. Evidence for the on-site manufacture of glass and enamel was found in the form of glass waste and small fragments of enamel waste. This is the first secure evidence of Iron Age glassworking from any Scottish site.

Another layer of hillwash beneath the Iron Age ground surface sealed two small cairns with a central pits that had been robbed out and backfilled during antiquity. One had been incorporated into the cobbled yard. The date of the cairns is not known at present, though they are likely to be Bronze Age. Flint tools and flakes were present in many contexts across site and are thought to residual evidence of earlier prehistoric activity. Several features were obviously earlier prehistoric based on artefactual evidence.

Two additional areas in the field S of Phase 5 were topsoil stripped for borrow pits. A total of 48 pits and postholes were uncovered. No structures were immediately obvious. Two pits contained Late Neolithic Grooved Ware. The majority of features contained flint flakes.

In addition to this a 5% evaluation was undertaken of Phases 7 and 8 as well as two small area strips; one during the excavation of phase 5, the other in September 2006. Two possible prehistoric structures were identified in the evaluation, the remains of a post-built structure in Trench 3 and a possible ring-groove in Trench 14. A large feature containing charcoal and fire-cracked stones was identified in Trench 8, and is thought to be the possible remains of a kiln. Prehistoric pottery, charred grain and apple pips were recovered from some of the postholes and the possible kiln. The majority of other features are undated isolated pits and postholes. Although no pottery was recovered from these features, the presence of a small amount of worked flint coupled with the nature of the charred plant remains indicates a Neolithic to Iron Age date.

The first area strip contained 30 pits and postholes forming no obvious structures. One pit contained several possible furnace bases, suggesting that the Iron Age industrial activity extended into this area. The second contained a small building consisting of a partial post-ring and two narrow gullies that formed the SE-facing entrance. A small curvilinear enclosure ditch was present 40m to the NE. This too had a SE-facing entrance. Approximately 50 pits/postholes were scattered across the remainder of the site; two contained pottery of Early Bronze Age and Mid Neolithic date. A small leaf-shaped arrowhead, the tip of a larger arrowhead and a scraper were the best examples from the lithic assemblage.

Archive to be deposited in NMRS. Report to be lodged with Highland Council SMR and NMRS.

Sponsor: Tulloch Homes Ltd.

R Murray 2005

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