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Castle Law, Glencorse

Boundary Stone(S) (Period Unassigned), Cultivation Terrace(S) (Period Unassigned), Cup Marked Stone (Prehistoric), Fort (Prehistoric), Settlement (Period Unassigned), Souterrain (Prehistoric)

Site Name Castle Law, Glencorse

Classification Boundary Stone(S) (Period Unassigned), Cultivation Terrace(S) (Period Unassigned), Cup Marked Stone (Prehistoric), Fort (Prehistoric), Settlement (Period Unassigned), Souterrain (Prehistoric)

Alternative Name(s) Castlelaw

Canmore ID 51871

Site Number NT26SW 2

NGR NT 22900 63870

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/51871

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

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Midlothian
  • Parish Glencorse
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District Midlothian
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes

NT26SW 2.00 22900 63870 Fort, Settlement, Souterrain, Cupmarks, Cultivation Terraces.

NT26SW 2.01 22978 63878 Boundary Marker

NT26SW 2.02 22960 63926 Boundary Marker

NT26SW 2.03 22918 63935 Boundary Marker

NT26SW 2.04 22872 63921 Boundary Marker

NT26SW 2.05 22833 63887 Boundary Marker

NT26SW 2.06 22821 63859 Boundary Marker

NT26SW 2.07 22838 63821 Boundary Marker

NT26SW 2.08 22878 63796 Boundary Marker

NT26SW 2.09 22949 63807 Boundary Marker

(NT 2290 6387) Camp (NR)

OS 6" map, (1957).

Fort and settlement (R W Feachem 1965) Castle Law. Excavations here in 1931-2, and in 1948 showed the single palisade trench of the earliest structure was succeeded by a single rampart reinforced internally with timber beams, at least near the gate. The course of the rampart differed slightly from the palisade, so that on one side of the entrance in the former the palisade was found outside it, and on the other, inside it. In the third phase a pair of ramparts and ditches was added outside the singleton to produce a standard multi-vallate fort of the period immediately before the local arrival of the Roman armies in AD 79 or 80. (R W Feachem 1963). A well- preserved souterrain, dating perhaps to the 3rd century AD, was also found, built into the ditch of the inner rampart near the old entrance to the settlement. Numerous finds were made, which are listed by V G Childe in 1933. They include sherds of Samian pottery, native pottery, a bloom of iron, and a buckle with apparently Celtic ornament, which Curle states is probably from provincial Germany, such buckles being common on Roman sites there. They were presented to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS) in 1939. (Accession Nos. HH 425-63, 574-5.)

RCAHMS 1929; V G Childe 1933; Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1939 (Donations); S Piggott and C M Piggott 1954.

Generally as described and planned by above authorities. No trace of the palisade trench survives.

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (RD) 2 February 1970.

Roman finds,all 2nd century, include an enamelled bronze brooch, glass bottle fragments and Samian. A Romano-Celtic mounting was also found. All are in NMAS.

A S Robertson 1970.

Photographed by the RCAHMS in 1980 (colour transparencies).

RCAHMS AP catalogue 1980.

This multivallate fort, a guardianship monument in the care of Historic Scotland, occupies a spur on the SE flank of Castlelaw Hill, about 150m NNW of Castlelaw farmsteading (NT26SW 66). Oval on plan, the fort measures about 82m from ENE to WSW by 35m transversely within the innermost rampart, which barely rises more than 0.5m in height internally, but is at least 1.5m in external height around most of its circuit. The outer defences comprise an earthen rampart accompanied externally by a deep ditch and a counterscarp bank, and internally by a broad quarry-ditch. These defences are best-preserved on the N, and elsewhere they have been reduced by the cultivation of rig-and-furrow (NT26SW 119) that almost completely surrounds the fort. On the NW, the rigs override the outer ditch and the counterscarp bank, and one rig appears to have been cultivated the length of the N side between the innermost rampart and the internal quarry ditch of the outer defences. On the S side, rigs measuring about 5m in breadth run uphill onto the lip of the counterscarp bank, but above this the defences have been transformed into a series of cultivation terraces at right-angles to the axis of the rig. The interior has also been extensively cultivated (on three separate alignments), but heavily-worn tracks extend up the slope through well-defined entrances on the WSW and SSE. A third entrance, on the ENE, is heavily disturbed, partly as a result of excavations carried out here by Childe (1933) and the Piggotts (1952).

This entrance was also disturbed by the insertion of a souterrain into the quarry-ditch of the outer rampart. This was also excavated by Childe and is now capped by a concrete roof. The visible fabric of the passage and a side-chamber on the W appears to be largely as excavated by Childe. The passage measures about 21m in length from N to S and gradually widens from 0.9m at the entrance at the N end to about 1.6m at the slightly rounded terminal on the S. The wall also increases in height from 1.3m at the entrance to 1.7m at the terminal and in places it is slightly corbelled. A cupmarked stone is built into the top of the E wall at the terminal. The full dimensions of the stone cannot be determined, but it measures about 0.45m in width by 0.25m in thickness, and its slightly convex upper surface bears five cupmarks (two of them oval) up to 50mm in diameter by about 12mm in depth. The souterrain passage curves to the SSW about half way along its length, at which point a short length of passage leads off to a roughly circular chamber on the W. This chamber measures about 3.6m in diameter and up to 1.95m in height.

The fort and souterrain are enclosed by a fence, but the guardianship area is also defined by nine boundary markers (see NT26SW 2.01-09).

(CDTA 95-103, 269)

Visited by RCAHMS (JRS) 8 June 2005

Activities

Excavation (May 1931 - June 1931)

To test the nature of the defences two sections, 4 feet wide, N.I and N. II, were dug across the ramparts on the north during May and June 1931 by members of the Edinburgh League of Prehistorians.

V G Childe 1933

Excavation (April 1932 - May 1932)

Excavated by Childe in 1932.

V G Childe 1933

Field Visit (8 June 2005)

This multivallate fort, a guardianship monument in the care of Historic Scotland, occupies a spur on the SE flank of Castlelaw Hill, about 150m NNW of Castlelaw farmsteading (NT26SW 66). Oval on plan, the fort measures about 82m from ENE to WSW by 35m transversely within the innermost rampart, which barely rises more than 0.5m in height internally, but is at least 1.5m in external height around most of its circuit. The outer defences comprise an earthen rampart accompanied externally by a deep ditch and a counterscarp bank, and internally by a broad quarry-ditch. These defences are best-preserved on the N, and elsewhere they have been reduced by the cultivation of rig-and-furrow (NT26SW 119) that almost completely surrounds the fort. On the NW, the rigs override the outer ditch and the counterscarp bank, and one rig appears to have been cultivated the length of the N side between the innermost rampart and the internal quarry ditch of the outer defences. On the S side, rigs measuring about 5m in breadth run uphill onto the lip of the counterscarp bank, but above this the defences have been transformed into a series of cultivation terraces at right-angles to the axis of the rig. The interior has also been extensively cultivated (on three separate alignments), but heavily-worn tracks extend up the slope through well-defined entrances on the WSW and SSE. A third entrance, on the ENE, is heavily disturbed, partly as a result of excavations carried out here by Childe (1933) and the Piggotts (1952).

This entrance was also disturbed by the insertion of a souterrain into the quarry-ditch of the outer rampart. This was also excavated by Childe and is now capped by a concrete roof. The visible fabric of the passage and a side-chamber on the W appears to be largely as excavated by Childe. The passage measures about 21m in length from N to S and gradually widens from 0.9m at the entrance at the N end to about 1.6m at the slightly rounded terminal on the S. The wall also increases in height from 1.3m at the entrance to 1.7m at the terminal and in places it is slightly corbelled. A cupmarked stone is built into the top of the E wall at the terminal. The full dimensions of the stone cannot be determined, but it measures about 0.45m in width by 0.25m in thickness, and its slightly convex upper surface bears five cupmarks (two of them oval) up to 50mm in diameter by about 12mm in depth. The souterrain passage curves to the SSW about half way along its length, at which point a short length of passage leads off to a roughly circular chamber on the W. This chamber measures about 3.6m in diameter and up to 1.95m in height.

The fort and souterrain are enclosed by a fence, but the guardianship area is also defined by nine boundary markers (see NT26SW 2.01-09).

(CDTA 95-103, 269)

Visited by RCAHMS (JRS) 8 June 2005

Publication Account (2006)

THE FORT

The Castlelaw fort (fig 3), which is a Guardianship monument in the care of Historic Scotland, is the only fort within the CDTA, and, like other categories of settlement from the 1st millennium BC, it forms part of a larger distribution of broadly similar sites, some of which survive as upstanding monuments and some as cropmarks. Despite two small-scale excavations (Childe 1933; Piggott & Piggott 1952), the exact nature of the defences of the fort is not fully understood. The excavations revealed a complexity of timber features, including palisade trenches, but the sequence of events can only be resolved by further excavation. If the fort follows the pattern of other sites for which there is dating evidence, then it is likely to have been occupied in the second half of the first millennium BC and gone out of use before the end of the millennium.

The Commission’s first association with the fort was a survey undertaken in 1915, with the resulting plan (fig 5) appearing in the Inventory of Midlothian and West Lothian (RCAHMS 1929). Although this plan records most of the major features of the fort, it does not acknowledge the presence of the later cultivation remains. Nor does it appear to recognise the devastating effect that this cultivation has had on the fort, especially on the south side, where the ramparts and ditches have been converted into cultivation terraces.

The survey of the fort (fig 6), which was carried out by the Commission in November 2005, was undertaken using a selfreducing alidade and planetable, with control provided by a series of pegs, the positions of which were recorded by Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment. As well as obtaining new information about the monument, the survey recognized that the lack of contemporary remains within the fort was probably as a result of cultivation in the interior. While this may have seemed a reasonable conclusion to draw beforehand, no cultivation remains were recorded in the interior of the fort until they were spotted during the course of survey. It is somewhat ironic that the very slight remains of that cultivation, in the form of very low scarps, were not detected by either aerial photography or by sophisticated survey techniques, but by the investigators seeing the features in perfect conditions - in late afternoon when the sun was very low in the south-western sky.

As part of the Commission’s ongoing assessment of the practical uses of GPS technology, a terrain model of the fort (fig 7a) was achieved as a result of taking approximately 17,000 height measurements across and around the site. The exact role of terrain modelling in archaeological recording has yet to be determined, but, in the meantime, one of the benefits is being able use software to examine, on screen, monuments in three dimensions, either in isolation or in wider topographical contexts.

Another useful tool, the potential of which is still to be fully explored, is that which allows a hachured plan derived from an alidade survey to be draped over the terrain model (fig 8).

THE SOUTERRAIN

The souterrain at Castlelaw, which is built into one of the disused ditches of the fort, is one of relatively few souterrains south of the River Forth. Like a number of its southern counterparts, it shares many of the architectural traits commonly present in the main concentration of souterrains in eastern Perthshire, Angus and northern Fife. It has a curving drystone-built passage, with an entrance at one end and a rounded terminal at the other, nd there is a subsidiary chamber opening off the main passage. Roman material found during its excavation (Childe 1933) indicates it was in use in the second half of the second century AD. Thus it appears to be contemporary with most of the other souterrains in eastern Scotland, including the one at Crichton Mains, some 20km to the east, where Roman masonry, datable to before or about AD 160, is built into the walls and roof of the passage.

A cupmarked boulder, probably dating to the period between 4000 and 2000BC, appears to form part of the top of the passage wall of the souterrain close to the south end of the east side. However, the stone is not mentioned in any previous accounts of the site, including the excavation report, and the circumstances of its discovery remain unknown. The full dimensions of the stone cannot be determined, but five cupmarks (two of them oval) are visible on its upper surface.

BOUNDARY MARKERS

An unexpected aspect of the archaeology of Castlelaw was the presence of nine boundary markers, which define the Guardianship area around the fort and souterrain. These markers include three distinct forms, reflecting different periods in the definition of the boundary.

The earliest markers probably date to about 1924, when the site first came under State protection, and comprise two short sandstone blocks, measuring only 0.14m square in section, which stand on the east and west-southwest sides of the fort respectively. Each stone bears an incised arrow symbol on its flat top, pointing towards the centre of the fort.

Four of the other seven markers in the circuit are cast concrete pillars, measuring 0.23m square in section, and varying in height up to 0.38m (fig 9). The upper surfaces again bear arrow symbols, this time impressed,pointing to the centre of the fort. These markers may have been in place by 1937, when the Guardianship area was consolidated following the transfer of the land from the War Department to the Ministry of Works (RHP 319). They must have still been in place when the Ministry of Works planned the fort in 1955 (RCAHMS MS: MLD/13/5), though only two markers, one of them displaced are shown at the east end of the fort.

When the Guardianship area was enlarged in the mid 1950s three of the boundary stones at the west end of the fort were retained in their existing positions and three at the east end were simply moved to their new positions. Two new markers, little more than crude blocks of concrete barely rising above the level of the surrounding turf, were inserted to mark angles in the new fence-line on the north side. For some reason it appears that the existing marker on the south-south-west could not be re-used, and a third new crude concrete block has been used in its place. A MOW plan demonstrates that all of the markers that are visible today were in place by 1958.

Though not boundary markers in the traditional sense, the two star-signs, on poles immediately east of the present fence-line around the uardianship area, are a form of demarcation. They were erected by the military some time before 1955, and they basically instruct troops that no digging is allowed beyond the line defined by the signs

Information from 'The Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Field Guide 2006'.

Watching Brief (18 October 2008)

NT 229 638 A watching brief was maintained on 18 October 2008 during the removal of vegetation in and around the site. The work was undertaken because dense areas of gorse had become established, particularly to the SE of the fort, and were threatening the monument. There were no finds or features of archaeological significance.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland

David Murray – Kirkdale Archaeology

References

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