Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC2597: Dun Mac Sniachan  

(Dun Mac Uisneachan; Dunmacsniachan; Dun Macuisneachan; Benderloch; Ardmucknish Bay)

Sources: Esri, DigitalGlobe, Earthstar Geographics, CNES/Airbus DS, GeoEye, USDA FSA, USGS, Getmapping, Aerogrid, IGN, IGP, and the GIS User Community

HER:  The West of Scotland Archaeology Service 1399

NMR:  NM 93 NW 2 (23234)

SM:  2179

NGR:  NM 9032 3822

X:  190320  Y:  738220  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

This fort is situated on an elongated ridge that rises from the edge of the shore to the NE of Benderloch Station. Steep slopes and rock faces extend round its flanks, and the easiest access is across the relatively gentle slopes at the NE end. The crest of the ridge is divided into two levels, the upper including the summit at the SW end, and the lower the rest of the spine extending out some 150m to the NE and contracting into a relatively narrow finger no more than 20m wide. The visible fortifications represent at least three phases of construction, the latest of them a relatively small enclosure measuring about 18m by 15m internally, which, along with two walls cutting across the spine of the ridge on its SW, occupies the crest of the narrow finger on the NE. These defences directly overlie the earliest fort, which not only takes in the whole of the narrow finger on the NE, but contours around the flank of the higher end of the ridge on the SW to enclose an irregular area measuring about 250m in length from NE to SW by a maximum of 50m transversely (0.75ha); reduced to a band of grass-grown rubble, RCAHMS investigators noted five separate in situ vitrified masses in its core. No certain entrances have been identified in its near continuous circuit, options being either at the NE end or in a broad gap at the head of a steep gully in the natural re-entrant formed by the topography of the hill on the E. This large fort is also overlain by a small fort occupying the upper, SW, end of the ridge. This appears roughly oval on plan today, but with a dogleg forming a sharp angle where it follows the line of the earlier wall on the NW side. Internally it measures 52m from NE to SW by 21m transversely (0.08ha) and though its heavily vitrified wall is reduced to a bank up to 6m in thickness, there is a run of inner face visible over a distance of 7m on the SE; the position of the entrance is not known. Robert Angus Smith carried out excavations in this small later fort 1873-4, revealing relatively deep deposits within the interior, and in a confused account describing what appear to have been rectangular structures at the NE end and a 'long passage' (Smith 1874; 1876; 1878). Contrary to what is visible today, his plan (1878 pl 1) portrays the line of the wall at the NE end in a regular arc, and he ascribed the dogleg to a later period of reconstruction in which pieces of vitrified stone had been incorporated into the core of a new wall on a different line. In the course of this work they found part of a tanged iron sword, an iron dagger, an iron ring, an enamelled bronze mount, a bronze ring and several quernstones, together with a quantity of animal bones.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  -601958  Y:  7656444  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -5.407479  Latitude:  56.489299  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Argyll & Bute

Historic County:   Argyll

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Ardchattan And Muckairn

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:  40.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

A tanged iron sword, an iron dagger, an iron ring, an enamelled bronze mount, a bronze ring and several quernstones, together with a quantity of animal bones, but contexts unknown

Reliability:  D - None

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

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✗  

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Rectangular structures are likely to be later

Artefactual:  No details.

Investigations

1st Identified Written Reference (1772):  Visited by Thomas Pennant (1774, 411-12)
1st Identified Map Depiction (1871):  Annotated Fort on 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Argyll and Bute 1875, sheet 87.1)
Excavation (1873):  By Robert Angus Smith (1872a; 1874; 1876; 1878)
Other (1888):  Description by David Christison (1889, 382)
Earthwork Survey (1958):  Plan (RCAHMS AGD 388/2; Feachem 1963, 109)
Other (1961):  Scheduled
Other (1968):  Visited by Helen Nisbet (RCAHMS SC723379)
Earthwork Survey (1969):  Plan and description (RCAHMS 1975, 68-70, no.136, fig 35; RCAHMS AGD 388/1)
Other (1971):  Surveyed at 1:2500 by the OS
Other (2013):  Re-Scheduled

Interior Features

Nothing visible on the surface

Water Source

There is a well on the SE flank of the ridge, partly natural but improved; it was cleared out by Smith in 1871 (1872b, 396)

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

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

a tanged iron sword, an iron dagger, an iron ring, an enamelled bronze mount, a bronze ring and several quernstones, together with a quantity of animal bones

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

Aerial

Obscured by trees and bracken

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

Entrances

None known

Total Number of Breaks Through Ramparts:  

Number of Possible Original Entrances:  0:  None known

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Enclosing Works

Two successive forts with vitrified walls, and also a smaller dun with outworks

Enclosed Area 1:  0.08ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  0.75ha.
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  0.8ha.

Total Footprint Area:  0.8ha.

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✓  

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✓  

Number of Ramparts:  2

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  1

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

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:  ✗  

References

Christison, D (1889) The duns and forts of Lorne, Nether Lochaber, and the neighbourhood'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 23 (1888-9), 368-432

Feachem, R W (1963) Guide to prehistoric Scotland. Batsford: London

Nisbet, H C (1974) 'A geological approach to vitrified forts, part I: the archaeological and scientific background'. Sci & Archaeol 12 (1974), 3-12

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

Pennant, T A Tour in Scotland Vol2

RCAHMS (1975) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the ancient monuments: volume 2: Lorn. HMSO: Edinburgh

Smith, R Angus (1872b) 'Descriptive List of Antiquities near Loch Etive.'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 9 (1870-72), 396-418

Smith, R Angus (1872a) 'Descriptive List of Antiquities near Loch Etive, Argyllshire, consisting of Vitrified Forts, Cairns, Circles, Crannogs, &c.,; with some Remarks on the Growth of Peat.'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 9 (1870-72), 81-106

Smith, R A (1874) 'Descriptive list of antiquities near Loch Etive. Part III'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 10 (1872-74), 78-80

Smith, R Angus (1876) 'Descriptive List of Antiquities near Loch Etive. Part IV.'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 11 (1874-76), 298-305

Smith, R Angus (1878) 'Descriptive List of Antiquities near Loch Etive. - No. 5. Plan of Dun-Mac Uisneachan.'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 12 (1876-78), 13-19

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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