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Trusty's Hill, Anwoth

Pictish Symbol Rock Carving(S) (Pictish)

Site Name Trusty's Hill, Anwoth

Classification Pictish Symbol Rock Carving(S) (Pictish)

Canmore ID 83748

Site Number NX55NE 2.02

NGR NX 5889 5601

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/83748

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2018.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Anwoth
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Stewartry
  • Former County Kirkcudbrightshire

Activities

Field Visit (16 August 1911)

14. Sculptured rock.

Besides its vitrified character, the fort on Trusty 's Hill (No. 13, NX55NE 2) is remarkable for the presence of certain sculptured symbols, usually associated with the early Celtic church, on the north face of the most southerly of the two projecting rocks between which has passed the approach to the summit. The symbols (RCAHMS 1914, fig. 11), are deeply incised, and are as follows:- in the upper left-hand corner the double - disc ornament traversed by the Z –shaped fioriated rod; to the right, and separated by a natural fissure, a lacustrine monster ; and immediately below it a heart-shaped figure with incurvation terminating in spirals and surmounted with a conical spike; at the left-hand lower corner a hum an mask wit h two horns ending in spiral curves on the top of it. An iron grill has been placed over the carvings for their protection.

Visited by RCAHMS 16 August 1911

See Early Christ. Mon., pt, iii, p. 477 (illus.).

Publication Account (1986)

The fort on Trusty's Hill is the only place in Galloway where the Picts are known to have left a recognisable mark. Carved on a rock beside the entrance passage are a series of Pictish symbols, including a water beast and a double disc traversed by a Z-shaped rod. Why these symbols are here, so far from Pictland, is a matter of speculation, but like other outliers in Mid Argyll they may commemorate the activities of a Pictish raiding party.

The burning of the fort as the result of such a raid may have been the cause of the vitrification evident in the remains of the stone rampart around the hilltop. This rampart, about 1.2m thick and originally timber-laced, encloses a roughly oval summit area some 24m by 15m in extent with an entrance on the south side. On the north-eastern side a substantial bank and rock-cut ditch cuts through the neck of the promontory. Excavations in 1960 suggested that these defences belonged to the earliest phase of occupation, perhaps a fortifIed homestead of the Roman iron age; a small sub-circular stone-built hut of this period was located in the hollow on the east side of the entrance passage, opposite the symbol-carved rock. A later phase is represented by the outworks on natural rock shelves in front of the entrance, but these ramparts were of relatively slight construction, revetted only on their outer faces. The re-fortifIcation belongs to a post-Roman period of military engineering, but whether a product of the Britons ofRheged or the Angles of Northumbria is hard to say.

The name itself 'Trusty's Hill', probably has some association with this secondary phase, but the personal name from which it derives is as likely to have been a Celtic Tristan, matching Mark Cno. 45), as a royal Pictish Drust. Legend and folklore refer to a Pictish king of this name who 'reigned' in Galloway in 523-8, but there is no evidence of Pictish settlement in the province. The name of the hill, like the symbol stone, may simply commemorate the signal military and logistical achievement of the leader of a Pictish task force!

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Dumfries and Galloway’, (1986).

Field Visit (21 February 1990)

Three Pictish symbols - a double-disc and Z-rod, a 'Pictish beast', and a conical spike terminating in two spirals - are carved into the living rock immediately inside the S entrance to the fort (NX55NE 2.01) on Trusty's Hill. A considerable amount of graffiti has also been carved into the outcrop. The outline of a face carved below the double-disc and Z-rod appears to be part of this graffiti.

Visited by RCAHMS (SPH) 21 February 1990

Reference (1997)

Class I symbol stone showing a double-disc and Z-rod with a fish-monster and sword to the right.

A Mack 1997.

Excavation (12 April 2012 - 15 April 2012)

As part of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, the Society launched a programme of excavation and survey of Trusty's Hill Fort in 2012 in order to recover, for modern analysis, the environmental and dating evidence not recovered in the previous excavation and so enhance understanding of the archaeological context of the inscribed stone at Trusty's Hill and the significance of this archaeological site within the context of Early Medieval Scotland. The archaeological fieldwork comprised a topographic GPS survey to establish a modern plan and 3D model of the entirety of Trusty's Hill; the re-excavation of previous excavation trenches and limited sample excavation in order to recover and record environmental and artefactual evidence from secure archaeological contexts and a detailed laser scan survey of the Pictish inscribed stone. The archaeological excavation was undertaken by 65 volunteers in collaboration with GUARD Archaeology Ltd, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and the Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation LLP.

Information from Oasis (guardarc1-134833) 3 April 2013

Excavation (20 May 2012 - 15 June 2012)

NX 5889 5601 As part of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, the society launched a programme of excavation and survey of Trusty's Hill Fort, 20 May – 15 June 2012, in order to recover for modern analysis, the environmental and dating evidence not recovered during the only previous excavation of Trusty's Hill, undertaken by Charles Thomas in 1960. The purpose of the project was to enhance understanding of the context of the inscribed stone at Trusty’s Hill and the significance of this archaeological site within the context of early medieval Scotland.

The fieldwork consisted of a topographic survey by RCAHMS to establish a modern plan and 3D model of the entirety of Trusty’s Hill. The re-excavation of previous excavation trenches and a limited sample excavation was then undertaken by 65 volunteers in collaboration with GUARD Archaeology Ltd, in order to recover and record environmental and artefactual evidence from secure archaeological contexts. A detailed laser scan survey of the Pictish inscribed stone was then undertaken by the Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation LLP.

The topographic survey updated the measured sketch plan produced by Thomas and shows that the site consists of a fortified citadel around the summit of a craggy hill, with a number of lesser enclosures looping out from the summit along the lower lying terraces and crags of the hill. It therefore recognisably conforms to the definition of a nucleated fort.

Four of Thomas's seven trenches were re-excavated. Trench 2 revealed a deep rock-cut basin on one side of the entrance to the hillfort, opposite the Pictish Inscribed Stone. This feature contained waterlogged deposits from which wood and other organic material were recovered for archaeobotanical analysis. Trench 4, on the E side of the interior summit of the site, encountered part of the vitrified rampart and associated 'dark soil' occupation deposits across an area of the interior. Excavation of these deposits recovered numerous animal bones, charcoal, worked stones and lithics, metalwork, metalworking debris and a rim sherd of 6th/7th AD century E Ware. Trench 5 on the W side of the interior summit of Trusty's Hill, also encountered part of the vitrified rampart along with associated occupation deposits also containing numerous animal bones, charcoal, worked stone and lithics, metalwork, metalworking debris, an Iron Age glass bead fragment and a rim sherd of 1st/2nd-century AD Samian Ware. Trench 6 revealed the sterile fill of the rock-cut ditch on the N side of the site. Radiocarbon dates taken from a variety of contexts across Trenches 2, 4 and 5 appear to demonstrate residual Iron Age occupation of the hill at c400 BC followed by a hiatus before the site was re-occupied perhaps starting in the 5th century AD, and flourishing in the 6th century AD before occupation of this hillfort ceased before the middle of the 7th century AD. The rock-cut basin opposite the Pictish Carvings, however, appeared to have continued in use beyond the late 7th to late 8th century AD.

The laser scan survey of the Pictish inscribed stone demonstrated that there is no ogham along the southern edge of the inscribed stone, nor is there a cup-mark above the 'sea-beast', apparent on a previous laser scan survey. The 2012 laser scan also confirmed that the z-rod and double disc symbol do not interweave as depicted previously, but intercut each other across the lower bar of the double disc. Furthermore, the horned head at the bottom of the inscribed stone clearly cuts one of the inscribed signatures, demonstrating that the horned head is not ancient, but rather another element of the 19th-century graffiti only too evident across the rest of the inscribed stone.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funders: Heritage Lottery Fund, Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, RCAHMS, GUARD Archaeology Ltd, Mouswald Trust, Hunter Archaeological Trust, Strathmartine Trust Sandeman Award, Gatehouse Development Initiative and the John Younger Trust

Ronan Toolis, Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society

Christopher Bowles,

2012

References

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