Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC3068: Dundee Law  

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

HER:  City of Dundee per Canmore 31936

NMR:  NO 33 SE 32 (31936)

SM:  2878

NGR:  NO 3914 3131

X:  339140  Y:  731310  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

Little is visible of the fort that stood on the summit of Dundee Law, which was adapted in the 16th or 17th centuries for a rectangular artillery fortification, and further demolished in 1923 for the construction of a war memorial; other damage has been caused by telecommunication installations erected over the N end. Nevertheless, the first town plans surveyed for Dundee in the mid 19th century clearly depict the artillery fortification, with bastions at each of its four corners, set squarely across a subrectangular enclosure measuring in the order of 70m from N to S by 30m transversely within its rampart (0.18ha). Vitrified stones found during the construction of the war memorial and in an excavation in 1993 suggest that this earlier rampart was timber-laced, though the rampart itself was not located in 1993, when partial sections were cut across what are probably elements of the earthwork defences of the artillery fort (Driscoll 1995). An area of intense burning was located on the W side of the interior, however, returning a radiocarbon date of 770 to 370 cal BC, while a stratified sequence of deposits was also recorded in which a pit containing three sherds of 1st century AD samian ware had been cut through an earlier area of paving and sealed by another burnt deposit, in this case dating from 40 cal BC to cal AD 220. A similar spectrum was returned by three dates from internal deposits located in an earlier evaluation carried out in 1990 (Rideout 1990). The only other feature of note is that the early OS maps of Dundee Law show a scarp encircling the foot of the hill, but there is no evidence that this is an ancient enclosure and fieldwork in 1993 found only old field banks on the lower slopes (Driscoll 1995).

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  -332783  Y:  7652559  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -2.989444  Latitude:  56.470026  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  City of Dundee

Historic County:   Angus

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Dundee

Condition

Destroyed by various bits of construction, from an artillery fort to a war memorial and a telecommunications mast

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:  174.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

There are neither stratified artefacts nor radiocarbon dates to provide a chronology for the defences. Nevertheless an early iron age date was returned from an area of intence burning and there also three sherds of Samian ware dating from the 1st century AD

Reliability:  D - None

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

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✗  

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Overlain by artillery fort and more recently a war memorial, roads and television masts

C14:  Five radiocarbon dates from various contexts

Investigations

RCAHMS hold aerial views of the summit

1st Identified Written Reference (1793):  Noted and vitrifaction observed (Stat Acct, viii, 1793, 206)
1st Identified Map Depiction (1852):  J Collies Survey of the Burgh of Dundee 1850-2
Other (1857):  Annotated Fort on OS large scale plan (Dundee 1861, 54.5.7)
Other (1872):  Annotated Fort on the 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Forfar 1885, sheet 54.5)
Other (1880):  Description (Warden 1880-5, i, 52)
Earthwork Survey (1899):  Sketch-plan and description by David Christison (1900, 52-3, fig 14)
Other (1923):  S end destroyed by the construction of the war memorial
Other (1956):  Description for RCAHMS Survey of Marginal Lands
Other (1958):  Description by the OS
Excavation (1964):  Observations when television masts were erected on the N (Boyd 1964)
Other (1969):  Scheduled
Excavation (1990):  Evaluation (Rideout 1990)
Earthwork Survey (1993):  Plan (Driscoll 1995, 1094, fig 2)
Excavation (1993):  Evaluations (Driscoll 1993; 1995)

Interior Features

Traces of occupation revealed by excavationn

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

Pits located (Rideout 1990) and paving and areas of intense burning (Driscoll 1995)

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

Steatite lamp found in demolition for the war memorial in 1923. In 1993, three sherds of Samian were found, a copper alloy strip, and a copper alloy tack, a lump of iron, a flint core and a chalcedony flake, a perforated stone disc, a whale vertebra and a turned bone knob (Driscoll 1995).

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:  0:  No clear evidence for the entrance into the fort

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Enclosing Works

At least one probably timber-laced rampart

Enclosed Area 1:  0.18ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  0.2ha.

Total Footprint Area:  

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✗  The rampart of the overlying artillery fortification is omitted

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✓  

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

Possible faces of the rampart observed in a cable trench in 1964 (Boyd 1964). Area of intense burning found in 1993, when further pieces of vitrifaction were recovered from secondary contexts (Driscoll 1995).

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

Boyd, J D (1964) 'Dundee Law'. Disc Exc Scot (1964, 1

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

Driscoll, S T (1993) 'Dundee Law (Dundee parish): multi-period Iron Age/Roman, medieval, industrial'. Disc Exc Scot (1993), 97

Driscoll, S T (1995) 'Excavations on Dundee Law, 1993'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 125 (1995), 1091-1108

Rideout, J S (1990) 'Dundee Law (Dundee parish), fort'. Disc Exc Scot (1990), 39

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

Warden, A J (1880-5) Angus or Forfarshire: the land and people, descriptive and historical (5v). Dundee

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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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