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Fort (Iron Age)

Site Name Finavon

Classification Fort (Iron Age)

Canmore ID 34813

Site Number NO55NW 32

NGR NO 5069 5568

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Angus
  • Parish Oathlaw
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Angus
  • Former County Angus

Archaeology Notes

NO55NW 32.00 5065 5567

NO55NW 32.01 NO 506 556 Cup and Ring-Markings

(NO 5065 5567) Fort (NR)

Finavon, an elongated heavily vitrified timber-laced fort with a well in it, measures about 500' by a maximum of 120' internally. Excavations carried out in 1933-4 by Childe (1935) showed that the wall was about 20' thick and that it stood 12' internally and 16' externally beneath the grass-grown rubble. There was a row of dwellings with hearths under the shelter of the N wall. Pot-making, spinning and metal-working were carried out in the lee of the S wall. The finds, including gritty plain potsherds, stone whorls, flints, an iron ring, and a thick jet ring, are in the NMAS (Acc. Nos: AO 104, BE 480, HH 386-416).

In 1966 MacKie dug two trenches against the inner faces of the N and S ramparts, and three radio-carbon dates were obtained - c. 390, c. 480, and c. 665 BC - indicating that the fort was in use from the 7th century BC until at least the late 5th or early 4th century before being destroyed.

Resurveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (JLD) 22 August 1958

V G Childe 1935; V G Childe 1936; M A Cotton 1954; R W Feachem 1963; E W MacKie 1966; E W MacKie 1967; E W MacKie 1969.

Fragments of vitrified and unvitrified material from this fort are in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (1947.336, 337).

Information from Museum Accessions Register.

NO 5060 5567. An evaluative excavation was undertaken in advance of the proposed erection of a telecommunications tower on Finavon Hill, immediately adjacent to the vitrified hillfort. Approximately 82m2 was examined and one possible stone feature was identified: a broken stone slab surrounded by rounded stones, apparently derived from the conglomerate bedrock. Although this may have constituted an archaeological feature, no associated finds or features were detected.

Detailed reports will be lodged with the NMRS.

Sponsor: Orange Personal Communications Services Ltd.

C Swift 1997.

NO 506 556. A detailed survey of the remains of the hillfort on Finavon Hill (NMRS NO55NW 32) was undertaken and instances of damage or erosion recorded.

A detailed report will be lodged with NMRS.

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, University of Edinburgh.

D Alexander 1999.


Excavation (1933 - 1935)

Excavated by Childe in 1933

V G Childe 1934

Excavation (1934)

Excavated by Childe in 1934.

V G Childe 1936

Excavation (1935)

Excavated by Childe in 1935.

V G Childe 1936

Note (1983)

Finavon NO 506 556 NO55NW 32

This roughly rectangular fort is situated on an isolated summit towards the NE end of Hill of Finavon and measures 150m by 37m within a massive, vitrified wall up to. 6m thick; further protection is provided by a hornwork on the E. All that can be seen in the interior is a well, but excavations in 1933-5 revealed traces of buildings, pottery and metal-working debris. Charcoal excavated in 1966 yielded radiocarbon dates of 590 bc ± 90 (GaK-1224), 410 bc ± 80:(GaK-1222), and 320 bc ± 90 (GaK-1223).


(Childe 1935; Childe 1936; MacKie 1969).

Publication Account (1987)

This fort occupies the summit of an isolated rocky hillock and comprises a massive wall enclosing an area about 150 m by 36 m with a further hornwork at the east end of the ridge; the wall has been of stone with a timber framework, which has burnt with such intensity that massive stretches of vitrified rubble have been formed. Excavations carried out between 1933 and 1934 by Professor VG Childe indicated that the wall was some 6m thick and up to 4.9m in surviving height externally; the vitrification was found only at the top of the wall, extending some 2m into the wall core, perhaps because of the greater use of cross timbers in the upper part of the wall. The excavation revealed hearths and a possible oven, as well as pottery, spindle-whorls and the debris of metalworking. A deep rock-cut cistern was excavated at the east end to a depth of some 6.3m. Further work in 1966, designed to provide dating evidence for the fort, revealed carbonised planks of wood, perhaps from hut floors, analysis of which yielded radiocarbon dates showing that the fort was in use between the 8th and 6th centuries BC. The finds are in RMS, Queen Street, Edinburgh.

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

Measured Survey (March 2014)

This fort was surveyed as a result of the recent recognition by RCAHMS staff of a previously unrecorded phase of construction. The apparent ‘horn-work’ at the east end is now interpreted as the original eastern end of a timber-laced wall that ran around the crest of the summit and was both broader and shorter than the later long, narrow enclosure excavated by Gordon Childe.

RCAHMS (DES 2014, 206)

Note (28 May 2015 - 13 October 2016)

This fort is situated on a local summits that stands forward from of the ridge that makes up the Hill of Finavon and thus occupying a vantage point with a commanding outlook NE, NW and SW across Strathmore. The fort itself is notable for the massive vitrification of its walls, which first led Gordon Childe to excavate here in 1933-35 (1935; 1936), followed 30 years later in 1966 by Euan MacKie (1966; 1967), the latter to recover charcoal samples for some of the first radiocarbon dates returned form a Scottish fort (MacKie 1969). The vitrified wall, which has been reduced to a bank of heavily-quarried rubble up to 15m thick by 4m high, forms an elongated lozenge-shape enclosure, measuring about 135m from ENE to WSW by little more than 25m transversely (0.35ha). The mouth of a dug well can be seen within the ENE end of the interior, while at the WSW end the walls span the head of a deep natural gully that may well have provided another source of water; what may be the entrance also utilises the topography of this gully on the SSE, though this is the line taken by a later trackway cutting across the fort. The arrangement of the defences at the WSW end of the fort, however, is probably the result of a secondary reconstruction, and what has otherwise been described by some writers as an outer bailey on the SE quarter (Cotton 1954, 66) is the remains of an earlier circuit. At the ENE end, this circuit appears to form an outer rampart separated from the vitrified wall by a broad ditch, but it too has been heavily quarried, both in antiquity and more recently, and no more than a low band of rubble can be traced along the lip of the summit above the cliffs along the SSE flank of the hill. If this interpretation of the remains is correct, the original fort was oval on plan, measuring about 95m from ENE to WSW by as much as 50m transversely (0.45ha). Childe found evidence of occupation in the interior, finds including a large assemblage of coarse pottery, a whole crucible and fragments of others, an iron ring and blade, flint tools, flakes and microliths, six spindle whorls, a single upper stone from a rotary quern and several other coarse stone tools; a shale ring and crushed fragments of a human skull were recovered from the fill of the well, which was 6.4m deep. MacKie opened trenches against the walls on both the N and the S (1969), but only at the latter was able to locate the deep charcoal-rich deposits found by Childe behind the line of the wall; their relationship to the wall itself, however, rests upon Childe's observations of the stratigraphy. Modern calibration renders the three radiocarbon dates obtained useless for chronological analysis, but there is any case a possibility that Childe misunderstood both the structure of the wall here and its relationship to the deposits he too be fallen rubble. While the faces that he found appear to be those of a wall 6m thick, and still standing in places 2.7m high, it is also possible that this rubble was part of the core of a much thicker wall, and that the deposits beneath it relate to an earlier phase of occupation, and perhaps the earlier fort that has already been postulated above.

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 13 October 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC3083


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