Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC2607: Dun Deardail  

(Dun Dearduil; Glen Nevis; Dundbhairdghall; Deardinl; Dun Dearg Suil; Dun Dear Duil; Gleneves)

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

HER:  Highland HER MHG4348

NMR:  NN 17 SW 6 (23727)

SM:  2893

NGR:  NN 1270 7012

X:  212700  Y:  770120  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

This fort is situated on a summit forming part of the ridge on the W flank of Glen Nevis opposite Ben Nevis. A spectacular position, the core of the fort itself is pear-shaped, with its long axis lying ENE and WSW above a hillside that falls away on the E all the way down to the floor of the glen. The rough interior slopes towards the WSW, measuring about 46m in length and contracting from 27m in breadth on the WSW to 11m on the ENE (0.1ha) within a heavily vitrified wall spread between 4.5m and 8m in thickness and up to 2.5m in height. The narrow gap on the W used by the modern path to the summit is probably the entrance. In addition to the vitrified wall enclosing the summit, there are traces of an outer wall set much further down the slope, swinging round the N, E and W flanks of the low rise some 110m to the NNW and petering out in boggy ground at the foot of the slope below the N flank of the summit, only to re-appear around its S and SE flank. Probably enclosing an area of at least 1.7ha, the character of this outer enclosure and its relationship to the fort on the summit are uncertain, but it is likely to have been a free-standing enclosure in its own right. Within its interior, at the foot of the slope dropping down from the summit on the N, there is a circular depression some 4m in diameter by 0.5m deep which is possibly the mouth of a well or cistern. A programme of excavation was initiated in 2015 by AOC Archaeology on behalf of the Forestry Commission, in the first season sectioning the core defences and confirming the presence of the outer enclosure on the N.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed:  Despite falling well below the 0.2ha threshold, the heavily vitrified wall and high summit position leave little doubt that this qualifies as a fort

Location

X:  -564137  Y:  7716283  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -5.067731  Latitude:  56.784913  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Highland

Historic County:   Inverness-shire

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Kilmallie

Condition

Extant:  
Cropmark:  
Likely Destroyed:  

Land Use

Hilltop left clear of the surrounding forestry

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:  345.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

Radiocarbon dates are not yet available from the excavations

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:  ✓  Possible transverse wall inserted into the summit fort; excavation found occupation on the rubble from the destroyed wall

None:  No details.

Investigations

1st Identified Written Reference (1777):  Noted (Williams 1777, 38)
1st Identified Map Depiction (1870):  Annotated Fort (Remains of Vitrified Fort) on the 1st edition OS 6-inch map (Inverness-shire, Mainland, 1873, sheet 160)
Earthwork Survey (1888):  Sketch-plan and description by David Christison (1889, 371- 4, fig 1; 1898, 176-7, fig 65)
Other (1943):  Noted by Angus Graham and Gordon Childe for RCAHMS wartime Emergency Surveys (RCAHMS MS 401/1)
Other (1956):  Description for RCAHMS Survey of Marginal Lands (RCAHMS WP000775; Feachem 1963, 127)
Other (1968):  Visited and photographed by Helen Nisbet (1974; 1975)
Other (1970):  Surveyed at 1:10,000 by the OS
Other (1994):  Visited and photographed by Highland Council staff
Other (1995):  Scheduled
Other (2008):  Description by Matt Ritchie (2009, 101-2)
Earthwork Survey (2010):  Plan and description by Headland Archaeology Ltd (2011)
Excavation (2015):  By AOC Archaeology on behalf of the Forestry Commission (http://www.aocarchaeology.com/news/article/dun-deardail-2015/)

Interior Features

Featureless apart from a possible transverse wall that may be of later date

Water Source

Lies within the outer enclosure

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

Surface

Possible well within the outer enclosure

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

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:  

Number of Possible Original Entrances:   

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Entrance 1 (West):  Simple Gap:  In the inner fort

Enclosing Works

Single vitrified wall taking in the summit, and a much larger area enclosed by a wall set lower down the slope, though its extent has yet to be confirmed on the S flank of the hill.

Enclosed Area 1:  0.1ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  1.7ha.
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  1.7ha.

Total Footprint Area:  

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✗  

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✓  With the uncertain character of the outer enclosure it has been omitted from this analysis

Number of Ramparts:  1

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

Christison, D (1898) Early fortifications in Scotland: motes, camps and forts: the Rhind lectures in archaeology for 1894. Blackwood & Sons: Edinburgh

Cotton, M A (1954) 'British camps with timber-laced ramparts'. Archaeol J 111 (1954), 26-105

Feachem, R W (1977) Guide to prehistoric Scotland, London

Headland Archaeology Ltd 2011 A Topographic Survey of Five Pictish Forts in the Highlands. Report to the Forestry Commission

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

Ritchie, M (2009) 'Dun Deardail Fort, Glen Nevis, Highland (Kilmallie parish), conservation management'. Disc Exc Scot, New Ser 10 (2009), 101-102

Williams, J (1777) An account of some remarkable ancient ruins, lately discovered in the highlands and northern parts of Scotland: in a series of letters to G.C.M. Esq. Edinburgh

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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