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Castle Craig

Broch (Iron Age), Fort (Period Unassigned), Patera

Site Name Castle Craig

Classification Broch (Iron Age), Fort (Period Unassigned), Patera

Alternative Name(s) Pairney

Canmore ID 26048

Site Number NN91SE 11

NGR NN 97600 12751

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/26048

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Perth And Kinross
  • Parish Auchterarder
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Perth And Kinross
  • Former County Perthshire

Archaeology Notes

NN91SE 11 9762 1273.

Castle Craig, a large rocky knoll, is occupied by a fort comparable with that on Norman's Law (NO32SW 22). The summit is occupied by a roughly circular 'Citadel', some 28.0m in diameter, enclosed by a stone wall, now reduced to ground level. On the N side, a rock-cut ditch some 25.0m long, 5.0m wide and 1.0m deep, gives additional protection while on the S, where the approach is easiest, a ditch and outer ramparts add further strength; quarrying here has partly destroyed or mutilated these defences. An outwork (probably earlier in date), some 120m from the citadel and at a much lower level, has enclosed Castle Craig; for the most part it has followed the edge of the rock faces of the knoll. Traces of huts can be seen SSW of the 'citadel'.

Visited by OS 19 December 1967.

Quarrying operations have destroyed the eastern extremities of the two low-lying, outermost ramparts and have disturbed a group of pits. A section across the outer rampart revealed that it was built almost entirely of flat igneous slabs, common to the area. The rampart was severly robbed but it is possible to state that it was originally about 2.5m thick with a retaining wall at the front, and probably at the rear also. The surviving height of the rampart is 0.5m; beneath the rampart is up to 0.25m of accumulated layers of soil containing small quantities of charcoal and cremated bone.

At NN 9758 1266, revealed in the quarry-edge, was a rock-cut pit 0.7 wide and 0.6m deep. The contents of this feature were small quantities of charcoal and cremated bone contained in a matrix of loose, black earth. A small section of jet armlet was also found, approximately one sixth of an armlet originally about 58mm in internal diameter. The pit was disturbed but part of a shattered capstone was found in situ. Excavation revealed the presence of a further nine pits each covered by a flat slab but none as large as the first. Some were rock cut but most were merely cut into the thin layer of till which overlies the bedrock. Most of the pits yielded extremely small quantities of charcoal and cremated bone and two small sherds of pottery of indeterminate type were also recovered.

The pits were grouped together in an area of about 10m square at a height of about 128m OD. Finds from the excavation and a copy of the archive have been deposited in Perth Museum (Acc. No 1983.550-552).

J Sherriff 1979; A G Reid 1984.

Scheduled as Castle Craig, fort SSW of Pairney.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 23 February 2001.

Activities

Aerial Photography (1942)

Field Visit (19 December 1967)

Castle Craig, a large rocky knoll, is occupied by a fort comparable with that on Norman's Law (NO32SW 22). The summit is occupied by a roughly circular 'Citadel', some 28.0m in diameter, enclosed by a stone wall, now reduced to ground level. On the N side, a rock-cut ditch some 25.0m long, 5.0m wide and 1.0m deep, gives additional protection while on the S, where the approach is easiest, a ditch and outer ramparts add further strength; quarrying here has partly destroyed or mutilated these defences. An outwork (probably earlier in date), some 120m from the citadel and at a much lower level, has enclosed Castle Craig; for the most part it has followed the edge of the rock faces of the knoll. Traces of huts can be seen SSW of the 'citadel'.

Visited by OS 19 December 1967.

Aerial Photography (1979)

Aerial Photography (12 July 2005)

Excavation (2 August 2011 - 25 August 2011)

NN 97604 12714 As part of the SERF project in conjunction with Northlight Heritage an excavation was undertaken 2–25 August 2011. The excavations revealed the remains of a timber palisaded enclosure, which had been constructed over a massive stone broch occupied in the Roman Iron Age.

The broch The exploratory excavations of the broch suggested it had an exterior diameter of c23m and >5m thick walls. The entrance was located on the SW and a cell was built into the NW wall. A small area of floor consisting of flat slabs and natural subsoil was exposed. The floor levels were sealed by intensely burned deposits of clay, stones and charcoal, which contained numerous artefacts dating to the 1st 2nd centuries AD, including fragments of glass bangles and vessels, bronze objects and a stone bowl. Above this destruction level was a deposit of c1m of tumbled stones, which appears to derive from the upper levels of the broch and contained finds including a bronze Roman patera.

The enclosure A low earth and stone bank, c28m in diameter, was built upon the deliberately infilled broch. The identification of at least two postholes in the bank suggests it supported a timber palisade. A Norse bronze ring-headed pin was found in the demolition rubble.

Other features Directly below the summit of the hill a trench investigated a rock-cut ditch. This feature, which was at least 1.9m deep, was filled with massive amounts of rubble. Towards the base of the hill two banks of earth and stone were also explored, and a single fragment of shale bangle recovered.

Funder: Historic Scotland and University of Glasgow

Archive: University of Glasgow (currently) and RCAHMS (intended)

University of Glasgow and Northlight Heritage, 2011

Geophysical Survey (29 June 2011 - 4 July 2011)

NN 9802 1153 (Ben Effrey) and NN 9760 1271 (Castle Craig) A geophysical survey was carried out over the two hillforts, 29 June–4 July 2011, prior to excavation (see entry below).

Ben Effrey A gradiometry survey using a Dual Bartington Grad601 was conducted across the length of the fort (c5600m2). The ramparts were most clearly detected on the S side of the hill and each gave a different response. The innermost rampart was defined by a strong positive magnetic signal with a halo of negative magnetism. The responses of the middle and outer ramparts were discontinuous and characterised by a few strong anomalies. An outer ditch and a possible counterscarp were recorded parallel to the outer rampart. A circular area of variable magnetism was recorded just within the inner rampart, and this may reflect an area of activity. No definitive structures were identified in the interior of the fort.

Castle Craig Both a gradiometry survey and a resistivity survey (using an RM 15) were conducted over Castle Craig Hillfort. The gradiometry survey over the summit of the hill, where there is a grass covered bank, clearly defined the edges of this feature. Within the interior of the enclosure the magnetic responses were variable and quite strong, particularly across an area visible as a raised platform on the ground. Immediately outside the entrance of the enclosure there were several other strong magnetic anomalies, suggesting activity outside of the enclosure. Further downslope the second of the outer banks also produced a distinct and strong variable magnetic response. Overall the resistivity survey generally defined areas of higher resistance associated with the enclosure on the summit of the hill.

Archive: University of Glasgow (currently) and RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland and University of Glasgow

University of Glasgow, 2011

Excavation (7 August 2012 - 26 August 2012)

NN 97604 12714 Targeted excavations at Castle Craig continued 7–26 August 2012 as part of the University of Glasgow SERF Project. Four trenches were excavated.

The Broch The outer wall of the broch was 2.2m high on the W side but only 0.7m high on the N. The broch walls were >5m thick with some evidence for intermediate walling. Internal and external paving or cobbled surfaces were found, but there was no evidence for external structures either predating or contemporary with the broch. The finds included Roman trade goods, such as a trumpet brooch and a single sherd of Samian ware, which are of 1st- and 2nd-century AD date, as well as local domestic material including a substantial tankard handle.

Outwork A geophysical anomaly had initially drawn attention to an area outside the broch which proved on excavation to be a substantial wall, similar in construction to the broch. The finds from the demolition above this wall were also similar to those from the demolished broch and included iron tools and Roman glass.

The Enclosure The low earth and stone bank, c28m in diameter, was built upon the deliberately infilled broch. Further postholes and evidence for timber were found within the bank. Finds from an occupation phase included iron objects and a blue bead.

Archive: University of Glasgow and RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland and University of Glasgow

Heather James, University of Glasgow

, Northlight Heritage

2012

Excavation (15 June 2013 - 5 July 2013)

NN 97604 12714 An investigation consisting of two excavation trenches and a small area geophysical survey was undertaken at Kay Craig, 15 June – 5 July 2013. One excavation trench was positioned to explore the outer bank and inner hollow. The outer bank, which encircles the SW side of the hill, was 1.2m high and composed of a series of earthen deposits faced with stone. The mixture of material used in its construction points to a variety of sources and at least two construction phases were recorded. The lower portion of the bank was composed of several discrete dumps, which appeared to contain occupation debris. The source of this material is unknown. It is possible that the lower deposits formed an early earthen bank, which was subsequently rebuilt with stone facings.

A hollow to the E of the bank was probably a natural feature which was augmented by quarrying along its W and SW edge. The quarrying created a vertical edge with a substantial drop behind the bank. The uneven quarried edge was then infilled to form a relatively flat face and the hollow partially infilled with stone, some of which may have been rubble from the structure on the summit of the hill. The upper stone fill formed a roughly level surface and may have acted as a courtyard for keeping animals. Fragments of pottery from this phase of infilling have been initially identified as medieval. A more recent latrine pit was cut into the upper stone fill of the hollow.

The second trench explored a poorly preserved circular structure on the summit of Kay Craig. The surviving basal course of a c1.5m wide wall was recorded and the arc of the wall suggested the structure would have been c11m in diameter. Large boulders, which formed the second course of the wall, at the NW end of the trench were different in character to those forming the basal course. The boulders may represent a second phase of building and suggest multiple phases of occupation. The disturbed traces of occupation recorded inside the structure included a hearth setting, with fragments of metalworking debris surrounding it, a whetstone and an unfired clay loom weight. Only ephemeral traces of occupation prior to the construction of the structure were recorded.

The excavation recorded an outer stone wall built along the mid-slope of the hill, generally concentric to the circular structure on the summit. This outer wall, which incorporated outcrops of bedrock, would have formed a coherent boundary and provided an additional defensive barrier.

A limited geophysical survey was undertaken of the areas surrounding the excavation. The results characterised the magnetism of the outer bank and several anomalies were recorded on a terraced area to the NW of the summit.

Archive: University of Glasgow and RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland and University of Glasgow

Tessa Poller, University of Glasgow, 2013

(Source: DES)

Note (24 December 2014 - 25 October 2016)

This fort is situated on a steep-sided and precipitous hillock between the foot of the NW flank of Craig Rossie and the gully of the Pairney Burn. The slopes here are particularly steep, while elsewhere on the NE and SE flanks, the latter now extensively modified by quarrying, the lower margin of the hillock falls away in low crags. On the NE and SE these crags seem to define the maximum extent of the interior, while two ramparts have been drawn across the foot of the more gentle and accessible flank on the SW. The outer seems to peter out after a short distance, but the inner can be traced to the lip of the steep slope dropping down to the Pairney Burn, where it probably turned NE along the lip of the gully, though little trace of it can be detected to the SW of a quarry cut into the spine of outcrops dropping down from the summit. To the NE of this quarry, however, it forms a terrace extending to the crags on the NE. Thus defined, the interior forms a rough parallelogram on plan, measuring about 175m from NE to SW by 115m transversely (2.22ha). On the SSW an entrance pierces both ramparts near the S apex, while a gap in the rampart about 5m short of the crags at the N apex probably marks the position of a second. Apart from an inner enclosure crowning the summit of the hillock, little can be seen within the interior on the SW flank, but there are at least four house platforms to the NE of the spine of outcrop dropping down from the summit. The summit enclosure measuring no more than 28m in diameter (0.06ha) within a wall that has collapsed down the slope into a massive scree of debris, which on the N quarter has cascaded into an external rock-cut ditch. Excavations in this summit enclosure recovered a Norse ring-headed pin from amongst the rubble, and showed that it had been constructed over the stump of a demolished broch measuring about 23m in diameter within a wall 5m in thickness; surviving floor levels were buried beneath burnt deposits containing a rich assemblage of artefacts dating from the 1st or 2nd centuries AD and including fragments of glass bangles and vessels, bronze objects and a stone bowl, while a bronze patera was also recovered from the overlying rubble (James 2011). The southern end of the fort defences were also sectioned and a fragment of a shale bangle was recovered. Previous excavations after quarrying in 1978 had destroyed the S terminal of these ramparts, exposed ten pits within the interior, most of which were capped by an area of paving and contained varying amounts of burnt animal bone; a fragment of a shale bangle was also found in one of them (Sherriff 1984).

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 25 October 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC2650

Project (1 May 2016 - 12 May 2017)

Archaeological features were identified and mapped from airborne remote sensing sources, such as lidar, historic vertical aerial photographs, and 25cm orthophotographs.

Information from HES (OA) 12 May 2017

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