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Dun (Middle Iron Age), Enclosure (Prehistoric)

Site Name Barnluasgan

Classification Dun (Middle Iron Age), Enclosure (Prehistoric)

Canmore ID 39168

Site Number NR79SE 17

NGR NR 7871 9113

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish North Knapdale
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NR79SE 17 7871 9113.

(NR 7870 9111) Fort (NR)

OS 6" map, Argyllshire, 2nd ed., (1924)

A short distance W of Barnluasgan is a double circular vallum of stones and earth, situated on a small rocky eminence.

Name Book 1867.

This fort is under afforestation; access is difficult and examination virtually impossible at present. It is situated on the SW end of a steep ridge, Christison (1904) giving its dimensions as 80' x 45'-50', with an entrance on the N. There are no traces of walling on the E, steepest, side, but on the W Campbell (1964) gives a wall thickness of 5'6", several courses high. A curved mound crosses the W side of the interior, possibly the remains of a "round tower", 40' in internal diameter, at the S end of the fort (Christison 1904).

D Christison 1904; M Campbell and M Sandeman 1964.

The much-mutilated remains of a dun measuring approximately 28.0m NE-SW by 17.0m over a tumbled wall up to 3.0m wide. Three massive courses of the outer face survive on the N. The entrance was in the NE. The 'curving mound' in the interior possibly represents the remains of a secondary enclosure overlying the dun. (?homestead - c/f NR79SE 3, NR79SE 4, NR79SE 5 ).

To the NE a mutilated stony bank probably represents the remains of an outwork (NR97SE 18).

Visited by OS (DWR) 23 May 1973.

NR 7872 9114. This site has been so ruined by reafforestation that the dun is now barely traceable, except in the north where several facing stones are visible, and in the NE where a transverse slab possibly represents the entrance. Due to the ruinous state of the site, the relationship of the dun and the 'curving mound' in the interior can no longer be determined with any certainty.

Surveyed at 1/10,000.

Visited by OS (TRG) 26 January 1977.

Scheduled as dun, enclosure and cairn, 200m W of Barnluasgan.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 12 December 2001.

A community excavation project, led by Kilmartin Museum, investigated this site in 2005. This was the first phase of an ongoing project, and involved a detailed survey of the upstanding remains of this site. There are two separate phases of building on this site, delineated by ther term 'dun' and 'enclosure'.

The dun is oval or egg-shaped, with a narrow end to the N. The overall dimensions of the dun are 28.7m x 17.2m (longest and widest parts measured). The exact thickness of the walls is unclear, as they have spread during their collapse, but they may have been up to 2m thick. A possible entrance may have been located to the NE, but this is postulated and not backed up by hard evidence. There is a small cairn, 12m from the northern edge of the dun, and consisted of a loose group of slightly mounded stones measuring 5.2m x 4.6m and standing no more than 0.8m high.

The enclosure appears to be sub-circular in shape and measured 18.3m x 15.4m. The tumbled nature of the surviving walls may have been up to 2m thick. Lengths of coursed facing could be traced around the outer wall circuit, most apparent to the S and N. The internal area of the enclosure at the E has been much reduced by stone robbing - the stone may well have been used in the nearby estate wall.

R Regan, S Webb, M Abbot 2005

NR 7 87 911 A survey was undertaken on Barnluasgan dun and enclosure, a Scheduled Ancient Monument within Forestry Commission land in North Knapdale Forest. The survey, undertaken in October and November 2005, provided a detailed contour survey over the surviving earthworks of the site as well as tracing the remaining wall lines. It has confirmed earlier work at the site, but has also brought to light new or previously unnoticed elements within the structures. It has also allowed a picture of the present state of the monument complex to be gleaned and has suggested

areas of the site that could be targeted for excavation.

Reports to be lodged with WoSAS SMR and NMRS.

Sponsors: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Forestry Commission, Leica, Kilmartin House Museum.

R Regan 2005


Field Visit (April 1984)

Situated 250m W of Barnluasgan on the top of a rocky ridge, which has in recent times been partly planted with trees (some of them now felled), there are the remains of a dun and a substantial enclosure which overlies its SW half. (Campbell and Sandeman 1964; Christison 1905, the possible 'outwork' or 'cairn' that is situated within trees to the NE of the dun appears to be either natural or a stone dump)

The dun measures about 25m by 12m within a wall some 2m in thickness, which on the NW stands to a height of 0.8m in three courses; a modern boundary-wall crosses its SW end. The wall has been severely robbed, and the only section that is at all well preserved is within thick forest cover on the SW. The position of the entrance is presumably indicated by the gap on the NE, where there is access along the spine of the ridge.

The ruinous enclosure, which can be compared with several adjacent sites, measures about 12m by 14m within a drystone wall which is about 2m thick. In places the original dun wall has been reused, but elsewhere, notably on the E and W, it is clear that the enclosure wall has been built on top of it.

RCAHMS 1988, visited April 1984.

Excavation (April 2006)

NR 787 911 In total six trenches were examined by excavation in April 2006, and turf was removed within four small sondages to establish the survival and lines of walls. With the permission of Historic Scotland other areas were cleaned of pine needle cover to enhance the understanding of the underlying archaeology. The earliest evidence of human activity on the site came with a group of cup marks incised on natural rock panels at the N end of the dun site. The results of the initial phase of excavation at Barnluasgan have shown that while both dun and enclosure have suffered much in the past and are badly denuded, they still have much to reveal. Excavation has shown that internal occupation sequences are still preserved and may shed further light on the age and function of this type of monument. The sequence of occupation for the upstanding structures is, however, still poorly understood and requires further investigation. The 'cairn' structure to the N of the dun/enclosure complex still defies interpretation although its function as an outwork to the defensive structures can be ruled out. Another positive result of the excavation was the uncovering of a possible curvilinear structure lying within the terrace below the dun/enclosure. Here again, however, assigning it an age and function would require further work. Finds were limited but the presence of charcoal and burnt bone within a dumped 'midden' sequence will help to date the structures.

The archive will be deposited with Kilmartin House Museum and copies of the report lodged with WoSAS and the NMRS.

Sponsors: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Forestry Commission, Kilmartin House Museum, Historic Scotland.

Roddy Regan and Sharon Webb, 2006.

Excavation (April 2007)

NR 787 911 In total four trenches were examined by hand excavation during April 2007. These revealed stratified occupation deposits that appear to be associated with both the earlier and later structures, namely the dun and enclosure. The depth of the occupation deposits within the earlier dun structure suggest it was occupied for some time, although how long is not clear at present and awaits C14 analysis. The retrieval of stone tools, including polishers and grinders as well as a rotary quern (possibly of Iron Age date) and spindle whorls hints a degree of permanency of occupation, with hide, grain and thread production suggested by these recovered objects. Similar occupation deposits were associated with the enclosure structure but given the relative shallowness of its associated depositional sequence, occupation may have been for a shorter period.

What does seem apparent was that the original dun structure was remodelled at some point to construct the more circular enclosure structure and it is probable that the builders used material from the earlier building to construct the later. More problematical is the transitional period between the earlier and later structures and it remains to be seen whether dating indicates continuity or suggests a chronological gap between these two phases of construction. Whatever the outcome both buildings appear to have been used in similar ways, in that they were defensive structures that have so far produced 'domestic' occupation signatures, if the artefact assemblage and occupational deposits are taken at face value. Beyond this and without secure dates any comparison with other excavated dun structures would be speculative, although the eventual results should considerably add our understanding of their use and chronology.

Archive to be deposited with Kilmartin House Museum and copies of the report deposited with WoSAS SMR, RCAHMS and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Funder: Forestry Commission, Historic Scotland, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland & Kilmartin House Museum.


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