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Timber Enclosure (Neolithic)

Site Name Leadketty

Classification Timber Enclosure (Neolithic)

Canmore ID 26642

Site Number NO01NW 40

NGR NO 02017 15923

NGR Description NO 0215 1575 to NO 0190 1590

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NO01NW 40 0215 1575 to 0190 1590

Pit Enclosure (possible).

(Undated) information in NMRS.

Aerial photography has identified parts of a large pit-defined enclosure across two field immediately to the N of Leadketty Holdings. Rectifications (RCAHMS 1994) show the boundary to be visible as an intermittent series of pit-alignments visible from NO 0215 1575 to NO 0190 1590, and it can be traced for another 50m to the W on recent aerial photography (RCAHMSAP 1994). Parallel lines of pits, 26m long and 5m apart (NO 0203 1593), run SW-NE from the enclosure boundary, and are presumably an entranceway or 'avenue'. The completed enclosure would have enclosed an area of at least 250m by 200m, defined by an irregular palisade or post line to three sides, and Duncrub Burn to the S.

Similar cropmark sites at Forteviot (NO01NE 28), Meldon Bridge (NT24SW 46.00), and Dunragit (NX15NW 76.01) have been identified as 'ritual enclosures'. The cropmarks of a possible henge, ring-ditches, pits, an enclosure and a four-poster have been recorded within the enclosure (NO01NW 36, NO01NW 39, NO01NW 55 ).

Information from RCAHMS (ARG), 23 January 1998 and (KB) 17 May 1999

Scheduled (with NO01NW 21, NO01NW 22, NO01NW 33, NO01NW 36, NO01NW 39, NO01NW 55, NO01NW 56, NO01NW 66, NO01NW 68, NO01NW 131, NO01NW 134, NO01NW 141, NO01NW 142, NO01NW 143 ) as Leadketty, enclosures, ring-ditches, square barrow and pits.

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


Aerial Photographic Transcription (9 September 1994)

An aerial transcription was produced from oblique aerial photographs. Information from Historic Environment Scotland (BM) 31 March 2017.

Geophysical Survey (23 April 2012 - 26 April 2012)

NO 01932 15856 (centred on) A geophysical survey was carried out on elements of the cropmark complex at Leadketty, 23–26 April 2012, prior to excavation (see entry below). A gradiometer survey did not add more detail to the post-built features visible in aerial photographs, but was considerably more successful in defining ditch-defined enclosures, and added some ephemeral features not apparent in the cropmark record. A small, targeted area of resistance survey did not add much new detail, and high resolution gradiometer survey is recommended for any future investigation.

Archive: University of Glasgow and RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland and University of Glasgow

Adrián Maldonado, University of Glasgow

Kenneth Brophy,


Excavation (6 August 2012 - 26 August 2012)

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


Note (11 April 2014)

Excavation revealed the postholes of a large timber enclosure, and as such the classification has been changed from pit enclosure to timber enclosure.

Information from RCAHMS (KMM) 11 April 2014

Excavation (22 June 2015 - 3 July 2015)

NO 01960 15640 A small trench was opened. 22 June – 3 July 2015, within the Late Neolithic Leadketty palisaded enclosure (NO01NW 40), to examine an area of the interior of this massive enclosure and test the nature of cropmarks identified here. The trench was located towards the S extent of the enclosure on the edge of an escarpment. Previous SERF excavations within this palisaded enclosure, about 100m to the NE, identified a Grooved Ware building, mini-henge and various pits and slots (DES 2012, 149-150). Excavations in 2015 revealed a dense scatter of cut features which included postholes and pits. Amidst this scatter, a timber circle c7.5m in diameter was identified, defined by eight to ten small postholes (which typically measured 0.5-0.95m in diameter and 0.3m to 0.55m in depth). One of these postholes contained a single sherd of fine prehistoric pottery. Aside from one large posthole set asymmetrically within the circle (1.05m in depth and over 1.4m in diameter) the remainder of features we investigated were shallow, and included a number of small intercutting pits. No material culture was recovered from these although we did find considerable quantities or charcoal in some pits which are now undergoing post-excavation analysis. It is likely that these multiple features represent repeat episodes of pit digging and deposition of organics such as carbonised remains and burnt nutshells, which would be consistent with occupation in a large Neolithic enclosure. The timber circle could have been a small roofed building, or a free-standing ceremonial monument, while at some point a huge single post stood here. Cutting the timber circle and large posthole were the remnants of some kind of post-medieval subterranean structure. A rectangular slot measuring c2m across by at least 2m in length (the true extent being unknown as it lies beyond the trench) was shored up on at least one side by loose stonework and mortar suggesting a slight foundation wall. The debris within this cut feature included multiple roofing slates, mortar, and charcoal flecked silt loams. This may represent the location of a small hut or shed although nothing is marked in this location on 19th-century maps.

Archive and report: National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE)

Funder: Historic Scotland


Kenneth Brophy and Helen Green – University of Glasgow

(Source: DES, Volume 16)


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