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Hanging Rocks, Archerfield

Cave(S) (Iron Age), Wall (Period Unassigned), Armlet (Glass), Knife, Quern, Spearhead, Spindle Whorl, Unidentified Pottery (Pottery)(Roman), Whetstone

Site Name Hanging Rocks, Archerfield

Classification Cave(S) (Iron Age), Wall (Period Unassigned), Armlet (Glass), Knife, Quern, Spearhead, Spindle Whorl, Unidentified Pottery (Pottery)(Roman), Whetstone

Alternative Name(s) Firth Of Forth; Outer Forth Estuary

Canmore ID 55027

Site Number NT48NE 7

NGR NT 4988 8572

NGR Description NT 4988 8572 to NT 4986 8572

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council East Lothian
  • Parish Dirleton
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District East Lothian
  • Former County East Lothian

Archaeology Notes

NT48NE 7 4988 8572 to 4986 8572

(NT 4988 8572 and NT 4986 8572) Caves (NR)

OS 6" map (1968)

There are two caves at Hanging Rocks, about 15' from the high water mark. They were excavated in 1908. The first cave had its entrance blocked by a rubble wall, in which were fireplaces, provided with flues. The wall had been restored by stepping and pointing. A deposit 10" to 1' deep lay on the floor. It contained charcoal, indicating the promiscuous use of fires, though the main hearth was marked by a circle of stones 10' in diameter, 24' from the entrance and near the centre of the floor. In the deposit were found the lower half of a rotary quern, a whetstone, an iron knife, a socketed spearhead, a whorl, bone pin and button, parts of two glass armlets, also pieces of 1st or 2nd century Samian pottery (now in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland [NMAS]) and the neck of a 2nd century coarse grey Roman jug, etc.

The second cave, 10' N, also contained a hearth and an occupation layer from which were recovered a whetstone, a bronze pin, a deer horn pick, the rim of a 2nd century coarse fumed Roman bowl, etc.

All the finds are related to the Early Iron Age. It is probable that several occupations occurred, but lack of stratification in the deposits could give neither their number or duration. It is certain that at least one of them was referable to Roman or post-Roman times. The wall built across the entrance to the first cave might be attributed to any date between the 4th and 12th centuries.

J A Cree 1909; RCAHMS 1924; J Curle 1932 ; A S Robertson 1970.

The caves are generally as described and illustrated.

Visited by OS (RDL) 15 November 1962

Two caves were excavated in 1908 and found to contain evidence of early Iron Age occupation. The caves are generally as described by the RCAHMS 1962. The second cave (west) has hill wash covering the floor and the roof appears to have collapsed recently.

Site recorded by GUARD during the Coastal Assessment Survey for Historic Scotland, 'The Firth of Forth from Dunbar to the Coast of Fife' 19th February 1996.


Field Visit (11 November 1913)

At Hanging Rocks, in a small bay south-east of Eyebroughy (or Eyebrochy), is a rocky bluff, in which are two caves about 15 feet from highwater mark. The first and larger cave faces the east, measures 30 feet in width and about 18feet in height at the mouth and extends inwards for a distance of 50 feet. Across the mouth are the remains of a well built wall of stone and sandy clay, which at one time may have closed the opening completely. The wall, which has a slight batter, is 5 feet 6 inches thick and rises to a height of 4 feet 6 inches in parts. Near the middle is a doorway 4 feet in width on the outside and broadening to 4 feet 5 inches on the inside. This doorway has been built up at a later date, for a height of 3 feet, with a wall 2 feet 3 inches thick at the base and 1 foot 5 inches at the top. In the north side of this entrance are two barholes 5 inches in breadth and 7 inches in height; the lower of these, which is placed 2 feet from the ground and 3 feet 4 inches from the outside, runs 9 feet into the wall; the other is dilapidated. At the north end of the wall, which at this spot contracts to a width of 3 feet, is a gap between the building and the rock, through which there is a good view to the east. To the south of the door two recesses for fires appear in the wall; the first, which is square at the back, is 4 feet 6 inches from the door and measures 2 feet 5 inches in width,2 feet 2 inches in height and 1 foot 10 inches in depth; the second, which is rounded at the back and I foot 2 inches from the first, is 2 feet wide, 2 feet 1 inch high and 1 foot 8 inches deep. Both are provided with flues, that from the first fireplace being carried vertically in the wall for 11 inches, then diagonally to the south-east for 5 feet 10 inches, when it emerges on the outside of the wall 10 feet from the door and 5 feet above the foundation of the wall; the second flue seems to have been carried almost vertically to the top of the wall. At a distance of 10 inches south of the last fireplace is a recess 3 feet in length and 1 foot 1 inch in depth, the wall terminating at the south end of the recess. A space 3 feet in width and paved with flat stones is left between the wall and the rock. In front of this opening is a large rock parallel to the wall leaving a paved passage between the wall and the rock, which narrows from 2 feet in the interior to I foot in width at the north end. A large block of sandstone built into the jamb of the first fireplace has evidently been used for sharpening tools. The south-eastern portion of the floor of the cave, which dips to the south and east, has been levelled up and paved with large flat stones.

This cave, which was almost entirely filled with blown sand, was excavated in 1908, when the above structure was laid bare. To prevent further destruction the top of the wall was slightly restored by ‘stepping’, and the whole structure was pointed with cement.

The second cave, which lies about 30 yards west of the first, faces the north. Before excavation the mouth, which is now 30 feet in breadth and 7 feet in height, was completely blocked with sand. This cave continues eastwards from the mouth till only a thickness of 10 feet of rock separates it from the inner end of the first cave. It shows a length from east to west of 47 feet while the breadth is 23 feet. The roof slopes rapidly from the mouth, so that less than two-thirds of the area could be occupied.

The relics recovered during the excavation of the caves betokened an early occupation. The few fragments of pottery found included several pieces of so-called Samian ware. Two fragments of glass armlets were recovered, one of an opaque white colour and the other of a clear greenish glass with a twisted blue and white moulding running round it. Deer-hornpicks, a ring headed pin of bronze, the end of a pin, a whorl, and a dumb-bell shaped object of bone, some fragments of iron including a tanged knife, and the upper half of a rotatory quern were also found.

RCAHMS 1924, visited 11 November 1913.

Cf. Proc. Soc, Ant. Scot. xliii., p. 243 plans and figs.


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