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Whittingehame Tower

Fort (Iron Age)

Site Name Whittingehame Tower

Classification Fort (Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) Whittinghame Castle

Canmore ID 57809

Site Number NT67SW 15

NGR NT 60024 73010

NGR Description Centre

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


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

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

Archaeology Notes

NT67SW 15 NT 60022 72992

Scheduled as Whittinghame Tower, enclosure.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 26 July 1994.

NT 600 730 Excavation of a later prehistoric promontory enclosure at Whittingehame Tower (NT67SW 15) has shown a lengthy sequence of activity, beginning with a linear ditch which runs through the interior of the later settlement. Both of the two curvilinear ditches visible on air photos showed signs of recutting, whilst the outer ditch apparently replaced an earlier stone-packed palisade. Traces of occupation in the interior included various post-holes and gullies, several of which post-date the linear ditch, and a substantial scoop. These were later covered over by successive cobbled and paved surfaces apparently used for domestic or industrial purposes. A spread of burnt material over the later surface was rich in hulled barley and seaweed, the latter presumably brought to the site for use as fertiliser. The settlement was probably abandoned in the Roman Iron Age. Analysis of the environmental remains will provide detailed information on crop husbandry developments as well as absolute dates for the occupation.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsors: HS, British Academy, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

C Haselgrove 2002


Geophysical Survey (August 2000 - January 2002)

Geomagnetic surveys have been carried out over a sample of 30 cropmark sites in the vicinity of Traprain Law, comprising Phase 1 of the Traprain Law Environs Project.

In the majority of cases (23 out of 30), the surveys have confirmed the presence on the ground of the enclosures shown on aerial photographs, often with very clear results. In a number of cases, the surveys have produced evidence of probable internal and/or external features which were not immediately visible on air photographs, while in other cases, the presence of these additional features has been confirmed. Several of the sites investigated appear to represent more than one phase of archaeological activity.

In the 7 cases where cropmark sites have not been readily identified, this appears to be due to a number of factors. In only one instance does the underlying igneous geology appear to be the main factor; while in several cases, anomalies not immediately relatable to the previous cropmarks were detected and might well prove be of archaeological significance.

The work reported here brings to a conclusion Phase 1 of the Traprain Law Environs Project.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, University of Durham, and Dickinson College, Pennsylvania.

Duncan Hale and Colin Haselgrove.

Project (2000 - 2004)

A project investigating the nature and development of later prehistoric and Roman Iron Age settlement in a 15 by 10 km block of landscape around the major fortified hilltop site at Traprain Law in East Lothian.

Excavation (10 June 2002 - 18 November 2002)

NT 6004 7300: The excavations formed part of Phase 2 of the Traprain Law Environs Project.

The excavation was of a curvilinear ‘promontory’ enclosure defined by inner and outer ditches. The main area comprised c.1030m2 covering a substantial proportion of the enclosure ditches and the flattest part of the interior of the site. An additional 15m by 2m trench confirmed the easterly continuation of the inner ditch circuit, beyond the area where it had been identified by geophysical survey.

The excavations provided evidence of two enclosure circuits which are not apparent on the air photographs, as well as revealing a more complex stratigraphic sequence in the interior than was previously apparent. Within the interior, evidence of various buildings and surfaces were revealed. In the later stages of the occupation at least, the main dwelling was presumably situated in the adjacent pasture to the east, closer to the end of the promontory; a slight terrace can in fact still be made out there. Unfortunately the creation of the scooped area has removed much of the evidence for earlier stages of occupation in the interior. No indication of the main entrance to the enclosure was found: this was presumably at one or other end of the ditched circuit and may even have been lost to erosion on the edge of the escarpment.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsors: British Academy; Dickinson College USA; Durham University; Historic Scotland; Larry Schoenberg and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Note (6 January 2016 - 21 October 2016)

First revealed by cropmarks, this fort or fortified settlement is situated on the lip of the escarpment dropping down to the NE bank of the Whittingehame Water SW of Whittingehame Castle. D-shaped on plan, two ditches about 5m apart form a semi-circular arc backing onto the escarpment on the SE to enclose an area measuring some 80m from NE to SW by a little over 40m transversely (0.25ha); allowing for the presence of an inner rampart the interior probably extended to about 0.2ha. No entrance is visible on the aerial photographs, but a geophysical survey carried out in 2000 shows a possible causeway across the main ditch on the N, at the point where the perimeter descends into a shallow gully. Subsequent excavation of the SW half of the enclosure in 2002 (Haselgrove et al 2009) showed the inner ditch was some 5.5m in breadth by 2.6m in depth and its fill contained evidence of a recut 1.85m deep; the outer ditch varied between 2m and 2.5m broad by 0.65m and 1.2m deep, and it too had been recut. No trace of the ramparts survived, but to either side of the outer ditch arcs of palisade trench were uncovered, apparently representing overlapping terminals of an entrance into an earlier timber enclosure. Some 8m within the inner ditch there was evidence of another minor ditch following a concentric line, and though its relationship to the main enclosure is uncertain, it preceded a scooped yard that had been dug into the interior and surfaced with cobbling; a barley seed from amongst a spread of stones on the S side of this yard, possibly representing a limited resurfacing, returned a date of AD 60-240. This yard was overlain eccentrically by a more extensive area of cobbles and paving, elements of which may have been the floors of structures, despite the absence of any evidence of their walls. An enamelled copper-alloy stud and a worn Samian sherd dating from the 2nd century AD were found in a hearth-like feature within this surface, while two radiocarbon dates of AD 330-540 and 350-550 were returned from burnt barley and hazelnut from silts forming the upper fills in the original scooped yard. While these and dates from other features clearly demonstrate a late Roman Iron Age occupation, the main enclosure is not securely dated. Neither the sample from the recut in the outer ditch from which a Neolithic date was returned, nor that dated to the Late Bronze Age from the basal fill of the recut in the main ditch is taphonomically secure.

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 21 October 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC3918

Note (13 December 2019)

The location, classification and period of this site have been reviewed.

Aerial Photographic Transcription (18 June 2019)

An interpretative transcription, or mapping, of information on oblique aerial photographs was produced on 18 June 2019.


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