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Dundurn

Fort (Iron Age)

Site Name Dundurn

Classification Fort (Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) St Fillans Hill; Doundarn

Canmore ID 24873

Site Number NN72SW 3

NGR NN 7080 2327

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/24873

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2017.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Perth And Kinross
  • Parish Comrie (Perth And Kinross)
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Perth And Kinross
  • Former County Perthshire

Archaeology Notes

NN72SW 3 7080 2327

(NN 7080 2327) Dundurn (NR)

OS 1:10000 map (1978).

For cultivation terraces around NN 7068 2326, see NN72SW 9.

Dundurn fort occupies an isolated rocky knoll and consists of a series of ruined walls which form defended compounds and courtyards all over the flanks of the knoll, the uppermost measuring about 70ft in diameter, while the total area covered is 325 yds by 180 yds. (See plan of Dalmahoy fort, NT16NW 2). This fort is presumed to be the place mentioned in the Annals of Ulster as being under siege in 683, and to have been a principal Pictish stronghold; it may have originated in the Iron Age.

D Christison 1900; R B K Stevenson 1951; R W Feachem 1963.

This fort is generally as described. The outlines of four small, circular depressions (? hut circles) are visible on the upper reaches of the fort, on the NE and SE sides.

Surveyed at 1:2500 scale.

Visited by OS (EGC) 7 December 1966

Limited excavations were undertaken in 1976 by the Dept of Archaeology, Glasgow University to establish the date and origin of Dundurn. At least two periods were recognised in the fortifications of the citadel and the uppermost terraces. The defences, revealed by the tumbled stone of their walls, are in the form of a citadel-like boss of rock surrounded by enclosures on two levels. No wall faces could be detected in the tumble. Excavation was carried out in two areas:

1. (NN 7081 2324) on the S slope of the summit and on part of the summit area. The latter had been levelled in two phases but no structures were detected in the excavated area. On the slope there was evidence for an approximately 4.0 m wide rubble and timber-laced rampart. This rampart overlay a layer of burnt stone and charcoal which probably represented an earlier timber-laced rampart. From the evidence gained, an oval citadel may be inferred, measuring 20.0m by 15.0m internally, defended by a rubble wall 4.0m thick laced with nailed timbers.

2. (NN 7080 2325) One cut was placed where a supposed hut circle appeared to butt against the western rampart of the upper terrace enclosure but no trace of a house was revealed. A second cut was sited on fairly level ground at the eastern end of the upper terrace (NN 7086 2327) where nettles and black soil suggested human occupation; an extensive pit found here yielded only charcoal and burnt bone.

Datable finds, among them a glass ornament and a silver strap fastener, were few, but they point to an Early Historic - probably 7th century - Pictish occupation. Carbon-14 dates are awaited.

L Alcock 1976

'The nails from Dundurn resemple those from...Inchtuthil so closely as to suggest that their ultimate source was some long-abandoned Roman Fort'.

L Alcock 1979

No change to the previous information. The excavated areas are still traceable on the ground.

Surveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (MJF) 10 September 1980.

Activities

Publication Account (1987)

The isolated and craggy hill of Dundurn commands extensive views to east and west along Stratheam and was an ideal choice oflocation for a Dark Age stronghold. Strathearn was the major route between Scottish Dalriada and southern Pictland, and it is likely that Dundurn was a Pictish fort deliberately situated in the borderland between the two. It is mentioned in the monastic annal compiled on Iona as having been under siege, 'obsessio Duin Duim', in AD 683, although the annalist unfortunately saw no need to identify either the besiegers or the besieged. Excavations in the 1970s confIrmed that the site had been occupied in the 7th century, probably in the form of a small wooden fortifIcation on the summit of the hill; this was subsequently rebuilt in stone and a series of outer walls were built to enclose the terraces below. After the union of the Picts and Scots, Dundurn seems to have lost its strategic importance and the fort was finally abandoned sometime in the 10th or 11th century.

The visible walls take maximum advantage of the natural shape of the hill, with an oval citadel on the summit and four lower enclosures following the rocky terraces. At the west end of the hill, a series of less obvious earthen banks and scarps represent stock enclosures and cultivation terraces, which may be contemporary with the fort, but their date is uncertain and they could equally well belong to more recent times. The overall design of the fort is very similar to that of the contemporary Scottic stronghold at Dunadd in Argyll, and, like Dunadd, the objects found at Dundurn are of a high quality that confIrms the importance of the site. They include an elaborately decorated leather shoe (luckily preserved by waterlogged conditions), a silver-plated bronze strapend and a superb glass boss made of dark green and white glass swirled together and further decorated by blue and white spirals.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Fife and Tayside’, (1987).

External Reference (14 September 2015)

This is referred to on the Pont map as "Doundarn an ancient fort" (Pont 21 (2)).

Information submitted to RCAHMS (SIH) via email by a member of the public, 14 September 2015.

References

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