Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC1201: Bute, Dunagoil  

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HER:  The West of Scotland Archaeology Service 4873

NMR:  NS 05 SE 4 (40291)

SM:  409

NGR:  NS 0847 5312

X:  208479  Y:  653127  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

The fort at Dunagoil occupies a craggy ridge on the coast S of Dunagoil Bay. The ridge is aligned ESE and WNW, dropping precipitously on the NNE and WNW, so much so that, the only defensive work along the cliff-edge is a short section of masonry with its outer face still 0.7m high blocking a gully leading up to the crest. Elsewhere the defences comprise a substantial wall some 3.6m thick which displays massive vitrifaction of its core the length of the SSW side. A run of the outer face is visible at the northern end of this side, but nothing can be seen of the inner face. There is also an entrance midway along this side, and another in the ESE end, where the wall measures 3.3m in thickness and cuts sharply back over the crest of the ridge to return a short distance along the cliff-edge on the NNE. The interior, which measures about 85m in length from ESE to WNW by up to 20m transversely (0.15ha), is featureless, and nothing can now be seen of the cross-wall noted on an estate plan of 1780 (Bute Archive). Excavations were carried out in 1914 and 1915, and again in 1919, though the results have been reported in only the most sketchy outline (Mann 1915; 1925; Marshall 1915). Nevertheless, several details indicate that the history of occupation on the hilltop included more than the construction and destruction of the fort. John Marshall, digging a trench into the masonry at the top of the gully on the NNE found chunks of vitrified stone reused in its fabric, from which he concluded that it was constructed after the main wall was destroyed (Marshall 1915, 45-6). This may have influenced Ludovic Mann's assertion that the fort had been extended eastwards at some point in its history, claiming that the new wall overlay midden from an earlier occupation, though whether this is an allusion to Marshall's trench on the E or an observation of his own of the main wall, as he implies, towards the ESE end of the fort is unclear (Mann 1925, 60). Nevertheless, the various trenches provided one of the richest assemblages of artefacts found in any fort in western Scotland, with a wide range of materials and evidence of metalworking (Mann 1915; 1925).

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  -562380  Y:  7505566  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -5.051943  Latitude:  55.733607  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Argyll & Bute

Historic County:   Buteshire

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Kingath

Condition

Extant:  
Cropmark:  
Likely Destroyed:  

Land Use

Woodland:  
Commercial Forestry Plantation:  
Parkland:  
Pasture (Grazing):  
Arable:  
Scrub/Bracken:  
Bare Outcrop:  
Heather/Moorland:  
Heath:  
Built-up:  
Coastal Grassland:  
Other:  

Landscape

Hillfort Type

Contour Fort:  
Partial Contour Fort:  
Promontory Fort:  
Hillslope Fort:  
Level Terrain Fort:  
Marsh Fort:  
Multiple Enclosure Fort:  

Topographic Position

Hilltop:  
Coastal Promontory:  
Inland Promontory:  
Valley Bottom:  
Knoll/Hillock/Outcrop:  
Ridge:  
Cliff/Plateau-edge/Scarp:  
Hillslope:  
Lowland:  
Spur:  

Dominant Topographic Feature:  

Aspect

North:  
Northeast:  
East:  
Southeast:  
South:  
Southwest:  
West:  
Northwest:  
Level:  

Elevation

Altitude:  35.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

Wide range of finds, including ring-headed pins, a finger ring, a brooch, glass bangle fragments, spindle whorls, bone needles and pins, stone cups, crucibles and metalworking debris spanning an unknown period of occupation.

Reliability:  C - Low

Pre 1200BC:  
1200BC - 800BC:  
1200BC - 800BC:  
400BC - AD50:  
AD50 - AD400:  
AD400 - AD 800:  
Post AD800:  
Unknown:  

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Stone axe

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✗  

Artefactual:  No details.

Investigations

First surveyed on an estate map of 1780, the fort was depicted in 1863 on the 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Argyll and Bute 1869, sheet 227.2), and noted in 1880 (Ross 1880, 75-7). It was subsequently described in the 1890s in some detail by the Rev J K Hewison (1893, 289-92), and excavations were carried out by John Marshall and Ludovic Mann in 1914, 1915 and 1919 (Mann 1915; 1925; Marshall 1915). A description was drawn up in 1943 as part of the RCAHMS Emergency Surveys, and copies of photographs taken in 1958 by Helen Nisbet as part of her research into vitrified forts are held in RCAHMS (see Nisbet 1975). The fort seems to have been visited by Kenneth Steer about 1975, and the following year, 1976, by the OS. Two seasons of survey work were carried out in 1994-5 (Harding, Ralston and Burgess 1995; Harding 1997, 121; 2004a, 141-4; 2004b), suggesting that there was also a much larger fortification here taking in the adjacent ridge of outcrop to the NE, an interpretation that is not shared by RCAHMS investigators, who in 2009-10, in the course of a new survey, suggested that the evidence for this outer enclosure related to a much later agricultural landscape (Geddes and Hale 2010, 22-5). The fort was Scheduled in 1953, and re-Scheduled in 1993

Earthwork Survey (1780):  Estate plan (Bute archive, Mount Stuart)
1st Identified Map Depiction (1863):  Annotated Fort on the 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Argyll and Bute 1869, sheet 227.2)
Other (1880):  Noted (Ross 1880, 75-7)
Other (1893):  Description by James King Hewison (1893, 289-92)
Excavation (1914):  and 1915 (Mann 1915; Marshall 1915)
Excavation (1919):  Ludovic Mann (1925)
Other (1943):  Description (RCAHMS Emergency Surveys)
Other (1953):  Scheduled
Other (1958):  Visited by Helen Nisbet (Nisbet 1975; Photographs held by RCAHMS)
Other (1975):  Visited by Kenneth Steer
Other (1993):  Re-Scheduled
Earthwork Survey (1995):  In the field 1994 & 1995 (Harding, Ralston and Burgess 1995; Harding 1997, 121; 2004a, 141-4; 2004b)
Other (2009):  Description (RCAHMS)
Earthwork Survey (2010):  Plan and description (Geddes and Hale 2010, 22-5; RCAHMS DC49423 & SC1231881)

Interior Features

Featureless

Water Source

None:  
Spring:  
Stream:  
Pool:  
Flush:  
Well:  
Other:  

Surface

No Known Features:  
Round Stone Structures:  
Rectangular Stone Structures:  
Curvilinear Platforms:  
Other Roundhouse Evidence:  
Pits:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  

Excavation

Early excavation by Ludovic Mann.

No Known Excavation:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Geophysics

No Known Geophysics:  
Pits:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Finds

Wide range of finds, including ring-headed pins, a finger ring, a brooch, glass bangle fragments, spindle whorls, bone needles and pins, stone cups, crucibles and metalworking debris (Mann 1915; 1925).

No Known Finds:  
Pottery:  
Metal:  
Metalworking:  
Human Bones:  
Animal Bones:  
Lithics:  
Environmental:  
Other:  

Aerial

NO APPARENT FEATURES

APs Not Checked:  
None:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Other:  

Entrances

See main summary

Total Number of Breaks Through Ramparts:  2:  Large sectors of the rampart are missing along the NNE side and at the WNW end

Number of Possible Original Entrances:   

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Entrance 1 (Southeast):  Simple Gap
Entrance 2 (Southwest):  Simple Gap

Enclosing Works

Single massively vitrified wall

Enclosed Area 1:  0.15ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  0.2ha.

Total Footprint Area:  

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✗  

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✗  

Number of Ramparts:  1

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  1
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  1
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  

Current Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  
Unknown:  

Multi-period Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:  
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  

Surface Evidence

Heavily vitrified wall

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Rubble:  
Wall-walk:  
Evidence of Timber:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
Other:  

Excavated Evidence

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Murus Duplex:  
Timber-framed:  
Timber-laced:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
No Known Excavation:  
Other:  

Gang Working

Gang Working:  ✗ 

Ditches

Ditches:  

Number of Ditches:  

Annex

Annex:  ✓  The existence of an extensive outer enclosure (Harding, Ralston and Burgess 1995; Harding 1997, 121; 2004a, 141-4; 2004b) is disputed by RCAHMS, who could find no in situ vitrifaction in the outer walls and considered the pieces of vitrifaction they observed to be material incorporated into later agricultural enclosures associated with the extensive rig and furrow visible E of the fort (Geddes and Hale 2010, 23-4).

References

Anon (1780) 'Sketch of the ground and remains of a fort at Dunagoyle on the south west end of the island of Bute', held at the Bute Archive, Mount Stuart

Duffy, P R J (2012) One Island, Many Voices: Bute, Archaeology and the Discover Bute Landscape Partnership Scheme, Donington (pp 9,10,75,76,80,81)

Geddes and Hale, G F and A G C (2010) RCAHMS: The Archaeological Landscape of Bute, Edinburgh

Harding, D W (1997) 'Forts, duns, brochs and crannogs: Iron Age settlements in Argyll', in Ritchie, G The archaeology of Argyll, Edinburgh

Harding, D W (2004b) 'Dunagoil, Bute, re-instated', Transactions of the Buteshire Natural History Society 26 (2004), 1-19

Harding, D W (2004a) The Iron Age in Northern Britain: Celts and Romans, natives and invaders, Routledge: London & New York

Harding, Ralston and Burgess, D W, I and C (1995) 'Dunagoil, Isle of Bute (Kingarth parish), survey', Disc Exc Scot

Hewison, Rev. J K (1892-93) 'On the Prehistoric forts of the Island of Bute'. PSAS 27 (1893-3), 281-93

Mann, L M (1915) 'Report on the relics discovered during excavations in 1913 at cave at Dunagoil, Bute, and in 1914 at the fort at Dunagoil, Bute (with suggestions as to the probable history and chronology of the site)', Trans Buteshire Natur Hist Soc 8 (1915), 61-86

Mann, L M (1925) 'Note on the results of the exploration of the fort at Dunagoil'. Trans Buteshire Natur Hist Soc 9 (1925), 54-60

Marshall, J N (1915) 'Preliminary notes on some excavations at Dunagoil fort and cave'. Trans Buteshire Natur Hist Soc 8 (1915), 42-86

Nisbet, H C (1975) 'A geological approach to vitrified forts, part II: bedrock and building stone'. Sci & Archaeol 15 (1975), 11

Ross, W (1880) Blain's History of Bute, in Rev. William Ross Rothesay

1995, 65

Terms of Use

The online version of the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland should be cited as:

Lock, G. and Ralston, I. 2017.  Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland. [ONLINE] Available at: https://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk.

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