Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC2938: Tap o' Noth  

(Hill of Noth)

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

HER:  Aberdeenshire Historic Environment Record NJ42NE0001

NMR:  NJ 42 NE 1 (17169)

SM:  63

NGR:  NJ 4845 2930

X:  348450  Y:  829300  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

The fortifications enclosing the summit of Tap o'Noth comprise two elements: a heavily vitrified and massively constructed inner enclosure upon the summit of the whale-backed hill; and a large outer enclosure bounded by a rampart contouring much further down the slope. The enclosure on the summit measures at least 85m from NW to SE by 30m transversely (0.26ha) within a wall now reduced to a bank of rubble up to 15m in thickness by 3m in internal height. Quarrying around the inner edge of the bank has exposed large masses of vitrifaction, which can also be seen in the massive scree of debris that has tumbled down the slope outside. No evidence of an entrance is visible; the present access over the wall from the E via a stony external ramp was already present in the 19th century and is more likely to have been erected by quarrymen. Drawn in an arc across the SE end of the interior, however, there are traces of two banks with a medial ditch, while roughly at the centre are possible traces of a ring-ditch house; the relationship between these features and the wall are not known, partly because the ends of the banks and ditch have been truncated by the quarrying activity. The only other feature within the interior is a well. The large outer enclosure measures about 550m from NW to SE by 400m transversely (16.4ha), within a heavily-robbed stone rampart that has been almost obliterated in some places, particularly along the steep S flank of the hill. Traces of an internal quarry scoop can be seen to the rear of this wall on the NW quarter and on the E. There are ten gaps in the line of the wall, disposed on the E, N and W, but at least five of them are probably relatively recent, with traces of trackways mounting the slope towards the summit; of the rest, those on the E and NNW are almost certainly original, and possibly a third on the W. Several of the trackways visible within the interior seem to service the clusters of small house-platforms that pockmark the slopes below the upper enclosure.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  -318186  Y:  7832271  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -2.85831  Latitude:  57.351338  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Aberdeenshire

Historic County:   Aberdeenshire

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Rhynie

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:  Commanding Hill

Aspect

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

Elevation

Altitude:  563.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

In the absence of modern excavation, there are neither stratified artefacts nor radiocarbon dates to provide a chronology for the defences.

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:  ✓  Quarrying and lookout hut

Other:  Erroneous thermoluminescence date (Sanderson et al 1988)

Investigations

Extensive coverage of oblique aerial photographs is held by RCAHMS and Aberdeenshire Council

1st Identified Written Reference (1782):  Noted (Douglas 1782)
Other (1796):  Noted (Stat Acct 17, 1796, 487)
1st Identified Map Depiction (1822):  Shown as rectangular enclosure on James Robertson's Topographical and Military Map of the Counties of Aberdeen, Banff and Kincardine (1822)
Other (1831):  Description and sketch (Hibbert 1857, 295-7, pl xi)
Other (1865):  Annotated Vitrified Fort on the 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Aberdeenshire 1870, sheet 42.4)
Excavation (1886):  Wall sectioned by J Macdonald (1886)
Earthwork Survey (1886):  Plan by F W Troup (Macdonald 1886)
Other (1943):  Visited by Angus Graham and Gordon Childe for the RCAHMS wartime Emergency Surveys
Other (1954):  Visited for RCAHMS Survey of Marginal Lands (Feachen 1963, 105; 1966, 67-8)
Other (1961):  Scheduled
Other (1967):  Surveyed at 1:10,000 by the OS
Other (1969):  Visited by Helen Nisbet (1974, 5, 9)
Other (1978):  Visited by Aberdeen Archaeological Services
Other (1981):  Visited by Aberdeen Archaeological Services (Ralston and Watt 1981)
Other (1981):  Visited by the Hill-fort Study Group
Other (1982):  Platforms noted (Ralston and Watt 1982)
Other (1983):  Platforms noted (Ralston and Watt 1983)
Other (1985):  Visited by Aberdeen Archaeological Services
Other (1985):  Vitrifaction cored for TL date (Sanderson et al 1988)
Other (1997):  Inner enclosure noted (Alexander and Dunwell 1997)
Earthwork Survey (1999):  Plan and description (Halliday 2007, 103-5 figs 6.29-30)

Interior Features

Single round-house within the inner enclosure, and large numbers of small circular platform within the outer enclosure

Water Source

Within the inner vitrified fort

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

Surface

Single possible ring-ditch house and a well within the inner; large numbers of small circular platforms 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:  10 

Number of Possible Original Entrances:  3:  All in the large outer fort; none in the inner

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Entrance 1 (East):  Simple Gap
Entrance 2 (West):  Simple Gap
Entrance 3 (Northwest):  Simple Gap

Enclosing Works

Two walls forming inner and outer enclosures and probably representing separate periods

Enclosed Area 1:  0.26ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  16.4ha.
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  16.4ha.

Total Footprint Area:  

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✓  The bank with medial ditch in the interior is unlikely to be contemporary with the inner wall, though the relationship has been destroyed by quarrying

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✓  Internal enclosure excluded

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:  2

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 (1898) Early fortifications in Scotland: motes, camps and forts: the Rhind lectures in archaeology for 1894. Blackwood & Sons: Edinburgh (p 174-5)

Cotton, M A (1954) 'British camps with timber-laced ramparts'. Archaeol J 111 (1954), 26-105 (p 82)

Douglas, F (1782) A general description of the east coast of Scotland from Edinburgh to Cullen... in a series of letters to a friend. Paisley

Dunwell and Strachan, A and R (1997) 'Tap o' Noth (Rynie parish), enclosure; ?hut circles', Disc Exc Scot (1997), 11

Feachem, R (1963) A guide to prehistoric Scotland. Batsford: London

Feachem, R W (1966) 'The hill-forts of northern Britain'. In Rivet, A L F (ed) The iron age in northern Britain. Edinburgh University Press Edinburgh

Halliday, S P (2007) The later prehistoric landscape. In RCAHMS (2007) In the Shadow of Bennachie: A Field Archaeology of Donside, Aberdeenshire. RCAHMS & Society of Antiquaries of Scotland: Edinburgh

Hibbert, S (1857) 'Collections relative to vitrified sites'. Archaeologia Scotica 4 (1857), 181 _ 201

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

Ralston and Watt, I and W (1981) 'Tap o' Noth (Rhynie p): hut platforms'. Disc Exc Scot (1981), 14

Ralston and Watt, I and W (1982) 'Tap o' Noth (Rhynie p): platforms'. Disc Exc Scot (1982), 12

Ralston and Watt, I and W (1983) 'Tap o' Noth (Rhynie p): platforms'. Disc Exc Scot (1983), 10

Sanderson, Placido and Tate, D C W, F and J O (1988) 'Scottish vitrified forts: TL results from six study sites', Nuclear Tracks Radiation Measurements 14 (1988), 307-16

Stat Acct (date) Statistical Account of Scotland: Drawn up from the Communications of the Ministers of the Different Parishes (Sinclair, J ed), 1791-99

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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