Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC2994: Castle Law, Forgandenny  

(Culteuchar Hill)

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HER:  Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust MPK1905

NMR:  NO 01 NE 5 (26583)

SM:  661

NGR:  NO 0998 1544

X:  309980  Y:  715440  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

A complex fort occupies the summit of Castle Law above Forgandenny, commanding wide views across the lower reaches of Strath Earn. The sequence of construction is not fully understood, and the remains on the ground are confused by the wall-chasing excavation trenches left open following the excavations by Edwin Weston Bell in 1892 (Bell 1893). Indeed, the more recent excavations of Tessa Poller 2013-14, have shown that the sequence proposed by a RCAHMS survey in 2010 cannot be sustained, and with hindsight the remains were over-interpreted in an attempt to make sense of the various complete and partial circuits of walls and ramparts that are visible. Four principal elements can be distinguished: an elongated, sub-rectangular enclosure with a massive timber-laced wall on the summit; a surrounding oval enclosure with a substantial wall, principally visible on the E, S and W, but apparently largely obliterated on the N; a larger enclosure formed by a rampart that also takes in a lower terrace on the NW of the summit, and was possibly accompanied by an outer rampart around most of the circuit; and finally at least three lines of ramparts and ditches at the foot of the slope facing into the saddle connecting the hill to the main mass of Culteuchar Hill, none of which can be demonstrated as either annexes or outworks to the other circuits. In addition a thick bank drops down to the edge of the Deich Burn on the E, while another on the W terminates just above the outflow from the boggy sump that occupies the bottom of the saddle on the SW. The sub-rectangular enclosure on the summit measure 59m from ESE to WNW by 24m transversely (0.12ha) within a wall that Poller's excavations have shown to be some 5.5m in thickness and in some places still standing 1.4m in height; taking into account the quantities of fallen masonry, this wall was probably once well in excess of 3m high. The oval enclosure outside it measures 102m from ESE to WNW by 50m transversely (0.39ha) within what was probably another timber-laced wall up to 4.9m in thickness; whereas no gap has been located in the innermost enclosure, Bell uncovered an entrance into the oval enclosure on the ESE, where the S terminal of the wall turns sharply back into the interior and has been shown by Poller to butt onto the wall of the innermost enclosure. At face value this relationship suggests the oval enclosure is secondary, but its wall on the N seems to have been virtually obliterated before the collapse of the innermost wall in this sector, perhaps suggesting a more complex sequence of robbing and replacement, and a subsequent reconstruction of the earlier line on the E to enhance the approach to the inner enclosure; in character the wall linking the two circuits has more in common with the wing-walls on Knock Farril in Easter Ross (Atlas No.2888) than any known entrance architecture. The survey of 2010 suggested that the oval enclosure was also overlain in the S sector by the rampart of a much larger fort measuring 142m from NW to SE by a maximum of 82m transversely (0.93ha), though the junction was confused by Bell's trenches and the apparent relationship in which some of the numerous house-platforms within its interior overlay the wall of the oval enclosure does not appear so secure in the light of Poller's excavations. These tested one of the platforms on the N, which was found to be no more than an irregularity in the deep deposits of collapsed rubble from the innermost wall. A more likely sequence might put this fort earlier than the two enclosures on the summit, though where tested on the SW its rampart also appeared to have been burnt and was accompanied by an external ditch. Possibly accompanied by a second rampart out side it, there were entrances on the ESE and WNW, and at the latter the terminals of the outer rampart are overlain by circular platforms. The relationships between any of these circuits and the outerworks on the more easily accessible slope facing onto the saddle on the S remain unknown, though the W end of the inner of them, with a broad ditch and an external rampart appears to overlie scoops to the rear of the rampart outside it; this latter may have been conceived as some form of annexe bringing access to the water in the boggy sump in the saddle within the compass of the defences. On the SE this outer line is overlain by what is probably a hut-circle, the interior of which is occupied by rectangular building; several other hut-circles lie on the slope below the defences on the NNE.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  -384849  Y:  7622950  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -3.457157  Latitude:  56.322819  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Perth & Kinross

Historic County:   Perthshire

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Forgandenny

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:  275.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

Dates from the excavations have yet to be published

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:  ✗  

C14:  Dates have yet to be published

Investigations

RCAHMS holds extensive coverage of oblique photographs taken by RCAHMS Aerial Survey Programme

1st Identified Map Depiction (1783):  Annotated 'Castlehill Ruin of a Pictish Fort' on James Stobie's map of The counties of Perth and Clackmannan (1783)
1st Identified Map Depiction (1792):  Description (Stat Acct 3 (1792), 309)
Other (1843):  Vitrifaction noted (NSA 10, Perthshire, 952)
Other (1859):  Annotated Fort on the 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Perth and Clackmannan 1866, sheets 109.12 & 110.9)
Excavation (1892):  By Edwin Weston Bell (1893)
Earthwork Survey (1892):  Plan for Bell by James Cunningham (Bell 1893, pl 1; RCAHMS SAS452, MLD 13/3)
Earthwork Survey (1899):  Plan and description by David Christison (1900, 74-6, figs 32-3)
Other (1957):  Description for RCAHMS Survey of Marginal Lands (Feachem 1963, 145)
Other (1964):  Scheduled
Other (1965):  Resurveyed at 1:2500 by the OS
Other (1995):  Description by RCAHMS
Earthwork Survey (2010):  Plan and description by RCAHMS (RCAHMS DC49397 & SC1236359, SC1236361)
Excavation (2013):  Directed by Tessa Poller on behalf of Glasgow University's SERF project (Poller 2013b)
Geophysical Survey (2013):  By Tessa Poller on behalf of Glasgow University's SERF project (Poller 2013a)
Excavation (2014):  Dirested by Tessa Poller on behalf of Glasgow University's SERF project (Poller and MacIver 2014)

Interior Features

A complex multiperiod fort, with a vitrified enclosure standing within a large enclosure in which there are numerous house platforms visible.

Water Source

While there is no recognisable water source within the fort, the saddle contains a copious supply of water, partly ponded by what looks to have been a natural dam.

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

Surface

Ring-grooves at the rear of several platforms

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

Finds from the 1892 excavations include: part of a shale bracelet; pottery sherds; a sandstone disc; three whetstones; three hammer-stones; a whorl; a possible polisher; and several cupmarked stones (Bell 1893). 2014 thin meta strip, baked clay

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

Aerial

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 (East):  Simple Gap:  Through both outer defences and flanked on one side by a wing wall running up to the innermost
Entrance 2 (West):  Simple Gap:  Through outer defences

Enclosing Works

Multiperiod superimposed circuits

Enclosed Area 1:  0.12ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  0.39ha.
Enclosed Area 3:  0.93ha.
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  0.9ha.

Total Footprint Area:  2.8ha.

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✓  Complex sequence is evident, though not fully understood and probably not as initially phased by RCAHMS investigators

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✓  All phases are conflated below

Number of Ramparts:  4

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  4
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  4
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  4
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  4

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

Ditches

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:  2

Annex

Annex:  ✓  The outermost works on the SE might be conceived in terms of successive annexes to inner defences, but this might equally be to misunderstand the circuits to which they belong.

References

Bell, E W (1893) 'Notes on the British fort on Castle Law, at Forgandenny, Perthshire, partially excavated during the summer of 1892'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 27 (1892-3), 14-22

Christison, D (1900) 'The forts, "camps", and other field-works of Perth, Forfar and Kincardine'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 34 (1899-1900), 43-120

Cotton, M A (1954) 'British camps with timber-laced ramparts'. Archaeol J 111 (1954), 26-105 (p 67-8)

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

Feachem, R (1963b) A guide to prehistoric Scotland, London

Feachem, R W (1966) 'The hill-forts of northern Britain'. In Rivet, A L F (1966) The iron age in northern Britain. EUP: Edinburgh, 66, 68, 75 fig. 5

Hogg, A H A (1975) Hill-forts of Britain. Hart-Davis, Macgibbon: London (p 171-2)

Poller, T. 2013b Castle Law, Forgandenny Excavations 2013. Data Structure Report. SERF (http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/humanities/research/archaeologyresearch/projects/serf/furtherinformation/#reports)

Poller, T. (with contributions by C. MacIver) 2013a Castle Law, Forgandenny Geophysical Survey 2013. Data Structure Report. SERF (http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/humanities/research/archaeologyresearch/projects/serf/furtherinformation/#reports)

Poller, T & MacIver, C. 2014 Castle Law, Forgandenny Excavations 2014. Data Structure Report. SERF (http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/humanities/research/archaeologyresearch/projects/serf/furtherinformation/#reports)

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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