Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC3852: Sheriffside  

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

HER:  East Lothian Council MEL700

NMR:  NT 56 NE 43 (56099)

SM:  

NGR:  NT 5550 6773

X:  355505  Y:  667739  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

Cropmarks on aerial photographs and subsequent invasive evaluations have located a fort or fortified settlement on the sloping ground above Sheriffside. Roughly circular on plan, it measures about 110m in internal diameter (0.95ha), and the results of invasive evaluations carried out 2013-15 have revealed a complex history in which at least four successive lines of palisading have been identified, and two ditches 6m and 7m broad respectively and up to 2.9m in depth in depth, the outer of which re-cuts a smaller ditch on the same line and may itself contain evidence of re-cutting. In the most recent report of the work the excavators have advanced a sequence of nine general periods of activity based upon stratigraphy and radiocarbon dates (Cook and Connolly 2015, 14), albeit that elsewhere in the data structure reports they also advance several caveats for the taphonomical relationship of the samples to the stratigraphical contexts. This sequence begins with two phases of palisading in the Early Iron Age, with a third phase possibly in the 3rd/4th centuries BC. The two ditches have produced three dates spanning the 1st-4th centuries AD, though none of these come from basal contexts and may bear little relationship to the dates at which the ditches were first cut; the earlier ditch recut by the outer is also completely undated. The fourth palisade trench, however is cut through the fill of the outer ditch and thus dates from after the 3rd/4th centuries AD. A date around the turn of the 1st millennium BC from a terraced feature on the SE, interpreted by the excavators as 'a scooped settlement' is more likely to be from a linear quarry scoop behind a rampart, though the only evidence of the rampart is a slight bleaching of the cropmarks in the SE quarter. The disjuncture between this date and those from the ditch fills highlights the problem of dating the construction of defensive circuits on limited data, but the date from the quarry scoop is possibly a more reliable guide to the chronology of the circuit of ramparts and ditches. Finds from the excavations include pottery, coarse stone tools and several polished stones.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  -302029  Y:  7538682  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -2.713171  Latitude:  55.900743  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  East Lothian

Historic County:   East Lothian

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Yester

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:  198.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

Insufficient information is available to assess the taphonomy of the samples and their relationships to their contexts from which they were taken, and while the excavators place the circuits of ramparts and ditches in the early centuries AD, they may date from the final centuries BC, while the palisaded boundaries are older again.

Reliability:  C - Low

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

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✗  

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Ploughed flat, and a large quarry dug into the lower, SW, side of the interior, where there is also a water pump house

C14:  Seven radiocarbon dates from evaluations, ranging from 7th century BC to the 4th century AD

Investigations

1st Identified Written Reference (1981):  First photographed by the RCAHMS Aerial Survey Programme
Excavation (2011):  Evaluation (Connolly et al 2011)
Geophysical Survey (2011):  By Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society as part of the evaluation (Connolly et al 2011, 8, fig 3)
Excavation (2012):  Evaluation (Cook et al 2012)
Geophysical Survey (2012):  By Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society as part of the evaluation (Cook et al 2011, 5, fig 2)
Excavation (2014):  Evaluation (Cook and Connoly 2015)

Interior Features

Apart from the internal quarry scoop, which is also visible on the aerial photographs, the evaluations only encountered pits and post-holes within the interior

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

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

Coarse stone tools and several polished stones

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

None known

Total Number of Breaks Through Ramparts:  0:  Ploughed flat

Number of Possible Original Entrances:  0:  Not known

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Enclosing Works

At least two ditches, presumably with upcast ramparts, around the uphill side, but possibly only a single rampart and ditch elsewhere

Enclosed Area 1:  0.95ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  0.9ha.

Total Footprint Area:  

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✗  

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✓  

Number of Ramparts:  2

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  2
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:  2

Annex

Annex:  ✗  

References

Data Structure Report. 2. Available http://www.rampartscotland.co.uk/index.php/publications/

Connolly, D, Cook, M, Dinning, S, Druce, D and Rocks-Macqueen, D (2011) Sheriffside, Gifford, East Lothian

Cook, M, Connolly, D (2015) Sheriffside, Gifford, East Lothian Season 3: Data Structure Report. Available http://www.rampartscotland.co.uk/index.php/publications/

Cook, M, Connolly, D and Druce, D (2012) Sheriffside, Gifford, East Lothian Season 2: Data Structure Report. Available http://www.rampartscotland.co.uk/index.php/publications/

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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