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Cleaven Dyke

Cursus (Neolithic)

Site Name Cleaven Dyke

Classification Cursus (Neolithic)

Alternative Name(s) Blairgowrie Road; Meikleour

Canmore ID 73146

Site Number NO14SE 80

NGR NO 1633 4049

NGR Description NO 1721 3998 to NO 1566 4088

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating

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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Perth And Kinross
  • Parish Caputh
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Perth And Kinross
  • Former County Perthshire

Archaeology Notes

NO14SE 80 1721 3998 to 1566 4088. LIN 1

Extends onto map sheet NO13NE: see also NO13NE 89 (SE end of cursus).

Formerly entered as RRX 519.

See Summary Record LIN 1 and NO13NE 89 (SE end of cursus).

NO 1721 3998 to NO 1763 3973 S ditch shows as a belt of dark green grass (Information from OS linear card RRX 519 held in OS linear record file MS 1178/30).

NO 1763 3973 Mound passes through milestone (Information from OS linear card RRX 519 held in OS linear record file MS 1178/30).

NO 1763 3973 to NO 1927 3858 Farmers say that in dry weather the dyke can be traced in ploughed land to R. Isla and across towards Little Keithick (NO 1944 3872) (Information from OS linear card RRX 519 held in OS linear record file MS 1178/30).

Nothing is visible on the ground (WDJ).

NO 1763 3973 Streaks are visible to a certain distance in this field. Looked at from the air on 22 July 1930. Nothing is seen S or SE of road (Information from OS linear card RRX 519 held in OS linear record file MS 1178/30).

NO 1927 3858 A single green line seen of (?) Cleaven Dyke (Information from OS linear card RRX 519 held in OS linear record file MS 1178/30).

Information from OS (WDJ) 6 March 1969.

NO 1513 4102 to NO 1763 3973 Generally as described above. There is no trace either on aerial photographs or on the ground, S of the A 984. The features are considerably mutilated and obscured by a dense fir plantation and undergrowth in North and South Wood. Resurveyed at 1:2500 (see also NO14SE 80).

Information from OS (RD) 12 March 1969.

The total length is 2,970yds. There is no other earthwork exactly like it but it may be compared with the vallum parallel to Hadrian's Wall on the S, of which it is a sort of inversion and whose purpose may have been similar.

Information from OS (ES) 21 Sept 1973.

O G S Crawford 1949.

A Roman boundary guarded by a watch tower. It does not extend far enough to mark an actual frontier and probably defined the territorium of the legion based at Inchtuthil - provision area under strict military control.

Information from OS (DC) 13 Nov 1974.

S Frere 1974.

NO 162 405. The Cleaven Dyke is a complex earthwork comprising a pair of parallel ditches (c.45m to 51m apart), with a central bank, running NW to SE for 1,820m through woodland. A further 350m or so is visible as a cropmark at the SE end. The central bank, which is between 1m and 2m high and about 9m broad, appears to consist of conjoined dumps and the ditch, where visible as a cropmark, appears to be made up of linked segments. At certain points (for example the NW terminal) it rises and broadens. There are at least two, and possibly a maximum of five, deliberately constructed breaks in the bank. In the NW portion (from the NW reminal to the main Perth-Blairgowrie road which cuts the monument) the Dyke is relatively straight and consistent in form. To the SE its line is far less constant. At a number of points either the central bank, for example the c.200m long section from the NW terminal to a major discontinuity in the bank, resembles a long barrow.

Small-scale excavation was undertaken at three points on the Cleaven Dyke. At the SE end narrow trenches were dug to look for the end of the Dyke, or at least the point beyond which the ditches did not survive. This was successful.

Also within the cropmark section (NO13NE 89) a larger area, measuring 9m by 30m was excavated over the southern ditch. Two lengths of the ditch were excavated in plan. It was revealed as very broad, shallow and irregular.

Some 1300m to the NW a 3m-wide section was cut through the central bank at a point where it had already been damaged by quarrying. The excavation was taken down to and then through the old land surface and B-horizon. Pits located within and beneath the old land surface were excavated. Briefly, the bank sections revealed an off-axis (to the NE) primary dump made up of (?) turf and mixed material, probably the fill of the northern ditch. Over this dump on the SW side was a layer possibly of turf (either turf dump or an old land surface). Over this layer further sands and gravels, probably the fill of the southern ditch. At both sides of the bank was a small primary dump of (?) turf apparently toeing the gravel of the bank. F005 appeared as a shallow hollow within the old land surface, cut by the section. It contained large pieces of charcoal which may have been burned in situ.

The section through the bank was continued as a 1m-wide trench across the berm to an across the N ditch, which was revealed to be c.5m wide and 1m deep below the modern topsoil surface.

The Cleaven Dyke closely resembles the structure at Scorton in Yorkshire, which has been identified as a cursus monument. It is suggested that both monuments combine the features of the monument type termed 'bank barrow' and the features of a cursus monument. A 'typical' bank barrow would have its quarry ditches immediately beside the mound, not about 19m away. The c.47m-broad, 2100m long enclosure formed by the ditches is typical of a cursus monument. Both types of monument are thought to belong to the first half of the third millenium BC.

Sponsors: Society of Antiquaries of London, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Prehistoric Society

G J Barclay and G S Maxwell 1993

NO 162 405. The Cleaven Dyke is a complex earthwork comprising a pair of parallel ditches (c.45m to 51m apart), with a central bank, running NW to SE for 1820m through woodland. A further 350m or so is visible as a cropmark (NO13NE 89) at the SE end. The central bank which is between 1m and 2m high and about 9m broad, appears to consist of conjoined dumps, and the ditch, where visible as a cropmark, appears to be made up of linked segments. Radiocarbon dating of samples from the first (1993) season has shown that the Dyke is a Neolithic monument, dating to before 3600BC (Barclay et al 1995).

A trench was opened immediately to the SE of the cross-section of the bank opened in 1993. It was an axial section along the bank designed to examine one of the apparent boundaries between two dumps. One of the characteristics of the bank is a lateral 'toe' of turf holding the gravel of the bank in place on each side. Richmond (Richmond 1940) demonstrated that at one of the constructed breaks in the bank the 'toeing' continued round the end of the bank segment. The 1995 section also showed that the NW of the two dumps was finished off at its SE end in the same way, the dump to the SE then being added. It seems likely therefore that the bank was constructed in segments.

On the old land surface there were few features. The most interesting was a shallow pit, the contents of which formed a low gravel mound immediately beside it. It is possible that this was one of a series of markers on the line of the bank.

Sponsors: British Academy, Russel trust, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Society of Antiquaries of London, Prehistoric Society, Historic Scotland.

G J Barclay and G S Maxwell 1995.

Scheduled [with NO13NE 89] as 'The Cleaven Dyke, cursus and bank barrow... a linear monument of Neolithic date... [which] combines the characteristics of a cursus moinument and a bank barrow.'

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 12 August 2005.

Activities

Excavation (September 1901)

Three cross-sections across the line of Cleaven Dyke.

Excavation (1939)

Three cross-sections through the bank of Cleaven Dyke.

Excavation (March 1975)

One trench cut across the projected line of the Cleaven Dyke.

Measured Survey (1991)

Survey of the section of Cleaven Dyke that was about to be clear-felled.

Excavation (4 September 1993 - 7 June 1995)

Four trenches cut through the line of the Cleaven Dyke.

NO 162 405. The Cleaven Dyke is a complex earthwork comprising a pair of parallel ditches (c.45m to 51m apart), with a central bank, running NW to SE for 1,820m through woodland. A further 350m or so is visible as a cropmark at the SE end. The central bank, which is between 1m and 2m high and about 9m broad, appears to consist of conjoined dumps and the ditch, where visible as a cropmark, appears to be made up of linked segments. At certain points (for example the NW terminal) it rises and broadens. There are at least two, and possibly a maximum of five, deliberately constructed breaks in the bank. In the NW portion (from the NW reminal to the main Perth-Blairgowrie road which cuts the monument) the Dyke is relatively straight and consistent in form. To the SE its line is far less constant. At a number of points either the central bank, for example the c.200m long section from the NW terminal to a major discontinuity in the bank, resembles a long barrow.

Small-scale excavation was undertaken at three points on the Cleaven Dyke. At the SE end narrow trenches were dug to look for the end of the Dyke, or at least the point beyond which the ditches did not survive. This was successful.

Also within the cropmark section (NO13NE 89) a larger area, measuring 9m by 30m was excavated over the southern ditch. Two lengths of the ditch were excavated in plan. It was revealed as very broad, shallow and irregular.

Some 1300m to the NW a 3m-wide section was cut through the central bank at a point where it had already been damaged by quarrying. The excavation was taken down to and then through the old land surface and B-horizon. Pits located within and beneath the old land surface were excavated. Briefly, the bank sections revealed an off-axis (to the NE) primary dump made up of (?) turf and mixed material, probably the fill of the northern ditch. Over this dump on the SW side was a layer possibly of turf (either turf dump or an old land surface). Over this layer further sands and gravels, probably the fill of the southern ditch. At both sides of the bank was a small primary dump of (?) turf apparently toeing the gravel of the bank. F005 appeared as a shallow hollow within the old land surface, cut by the section. It contained large pieces of charcoal which may have been burned in situ.

The section through the bank was continued as a 1m-wide trench across the berm to an across the N ditch, which was revealed to be c.5m wide and 1m deep below the modern topsoil surface.

The Cleaven Dyke closely resembles the structure at Scorton in Yorkshire, which has been identified as a cursus monument. It is suggested that both monuments combine the features of the monument type termed 'bank barrow' and the features of a cursus monument. A 'typical' bank barrow would have its quarry ditches immediately beside the mound, not about 19m away. The c.47m-broad, 2100m long enclosure formed by the ditches is typical of a cursus monument. Both types of monument are thought to belong to the first half of the third millenium BC.

Sponsors: Society of Antiquaries of London, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Prehistoric Society

G J Barclay and G S Maxwell 1993

NO 162 405. The Cleaven Dyke is a complex earthwork comprising a pair of parallel ditches (c.45m to 51m apart), with a central bank, running NW to SE for 1820m through woodland. A further 350m or so is visible as a cropmark (NO13NE 89) at the SE end. The central bank which is between 1m and 2m high and about 9m broad, appears to consist of conjoined dumps, and the ditch, where visible as a cropmark, appears to be made up of linked segments. Radiocarbon dating of samples from the first (1993) season has shown that the Dyke is a Neolithic monument, dating to before 3600BC (Barclay et al 1995).

A trench was opened immediately to the SE of the cross-section of the bank opened in 1993. It was an axial section along the bank designed to examine one of the apparent boundaries between two dumps. One of the characteristics of the bank is a lateral 'toe' of turf holding the gravel of the bank in place on each side. Richmond (Richmond 1940) demonstrated that at one of the constructed breaks in the bank the 'toeing' continued round the end of the bank segment. The 1995 section also showed that the NW of the two dumps was finished off at its SE end in the same way, the dump to the SE then being added. It seems likely therefore that the bank was constructed in segments.

On the old land surface there were few features. The most interesting was a shallow pit, the contents of which formed a low gravel mound immediately beside it. It is possible that this was one of a series of markers on the line of the bank.

Sponsors: British Academy, Russel trust, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Society of Antiquaries of London, Prehistoric Society, Historic Scotland.

G J Barclay and G S Maxwell 1995.

Project (1993 - 1996)

Excavations, detailed contour survey and geophysics at Cleaven Dyke and Littleour.

Contour Survey (1994 - 1996)

Detailed contour survey of Cleaven Dyke.

Resistivity (November 1995 - 1996)

Electrical resistivity profile surveys using the Wenner Array at the north-wets terminal and over south-eastern cropmark portion of the Cleaven Dyke.

Change Of Classification (1996)

This monument was formerly classified as a Roman EARTHWORK but has subsequently been reinterpreted as a Neolithic CURSUS.

References

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