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Earn's Heugh

Fort(S) (Iron Age), Settlement (Iron Age)

Site Name Earn's Heugh

Classification Fort(S) (Iron Age), Settlement (Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) Earn's Heugh Forts; Tun Law

Canmore ID 59800

Site Number NT86NE 8

NGR NT 89210 69130

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Scottish Borders, The
  • Parish Coldingham
  • Former Region Borders
  • Former District Berwickshire
  • Former County Berwickshire

Archaeology Notes

NT86NE 8 89210 69130 to 891 691.

(NT 8921 6913) Forts and Settlement (NR)

OS 1:10,000 map, (1976).

Forts and Settlement: Two now D-shaped but once probably oval or circular enclosures and a later settlement. (See RCAHMS 1915 plan, fig. 42).

The eastern enclosure, believed by Feachem to be the earlier but by Childe to be the later of the two enclosures, is described by Feachem as measuring 220ft by 120ft within the remains of a single rampart with an external ditch. He apparently ignores the two other ramparts, which were sectioned by Childe in 1931. Childe mentions indications of a rock-cut ditch outside the outer bank, E of a gap (possibly a gateway) at NT 8924 6907.

The larger enclosure, on the W, must originally have measured about 260ft in diameter within two ramparts with a medial ditch, with an entrance in the W.

A later settlement, about 180ft in diameter within a single rampart, was inserted centrally to this latter fort. Several circular stone house foundatione set against the inner face of the settlement rampart yielded, on excavation in 1931, relics dated between AD 150 and 400. 'The W fort and the settlement repeat . . . the pattern of the settlement with stone-built houses developing at a pre-Roman Iron Age site after this had become disused.'

RCAHMS 1915, visited 1908; V G Childe 1932; R W Feachem 1963.

The ramparts, mainly of stone, are well-defined and strongly constructed. In the western complex the inner, middle and outer ramparts are 1.4m, 1.8m and 1.4m high respectively. In the eastern fort they are 1.6m, 0.6m and 1.0m high respectively. The hut circles in the settlement show as shallow depressions.

To the SE of the eastern fort there is a low, circular, earth-banked enclosure.

Visited by OS (JLD) 4 November 1954.

Generally as described above. There is the foundation of a sub-rectangular building attached to the enclosing earth bank of the small enclosure (NT 8930 6905).

Visited by OS (WDJ) 3 March 1966.

Among the finds from Childe's excavation which are now in the NMAS (Accession Nos: GP 347-58) is a 2nd century Roman enamelled 'head-stud' brooch, from the W fort.

J Curle 1932; A S Robertson 1970.

This monument, which occupies the summit of Tun Law, is interpreted as follows by the Society of Antiquaries surveyors: The interior of the NW fort is occupied by a later settlement measuring about 55m by 30m within its bank; this in turn is overlaid by a settlement of nine stone- walled houses (from which the material dating from the mid 2nd to 4th centuries AD noted above was recovered).

The SE fort measures about 65m by 35m internally; on the NW its outer rampart is probably overlain by a reconstructed section of the outer rampart of the NW fort. Subsequently the outer rampart of the SE fort was rebuilt so as to butt on to the defences of the NW fort and a third rampart was then added to the SE fort.

Immediately to the SE there are the remains of at least two rectangular buildings forming two sides of an enclosure which is bounded on the E by a low bank and on the N by sea-cliffs.

RCAHMS 1980.


Excavation (July 1931)

Excavated in 1931.

V G Childe 1932

Publication Account (1985)

The summit of Tun Law ends in a spectacular, precipitous cliff 150m above the sea. To say that the twin settlements are semi-oval, semi-circular or D-shaped is to ignore the likelihood of at least half of each structure lost through erosion-an indicator of the increasing attack of the sea over 2000 years and more.

The interior of the eastern enclosure, roughly 70m by 35m, is encircled by the remains of a single rampart with external ditch and an entrance at the west side. A further pair of ramparts was subsequently added, overridden in turn by a similar pair added to the western enclosure. This larger enclosure follows much the same pattern-a 55m diameter settlement perhaps, within a single wall (though apparently without a ditch), extended by the two further ramparts to a diameter of at least 80m.

Unlike the smaller settlement which provides no evidence of house sites, here traces have been found of at least nine circular stone foundations, all lying against the inner face of the innermost wall. Such stone-built houses often accompany Roman influence in south-east Scotland, and the evidence of excavated objects dated between 150 and 400 AD, suggests that Earn's Heugh, even if abandoned during the Roman period, was certainly occupied again until at least the late 4th century AD.

Coldingham Moor, commanding the coastal route north and south, has a high concentration of fortified settlements-at least ten within a 1.5km radius; there are other high concentrations along Bunkle Edge, commanding a fine prospect across the Merse and into Northumberland, and along the hills either side of Lauderdale, the even more important artery north.

Information from 'Exploring Scotland's Heritage: Lothian and Borders', (1985).

Sbc Note

Visibility: This is an upstanding earthwork or monument.

Information from Scottish Borders Council


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