Photo from Christison et al 1898 report showing the scale of the wall and the hollow sockets where timbers would have been situated.

Castle Law Excavations have begun

A team of hardy volunteers, students, Tay LP and AOC Archaeology trekked up to Castle Law on Wednesday for the first day of excavating (or more accurately vegetation clearance!)

What are we looking for?

Castle Law Hillfort site saw important antiquarian excavations in the 1890’s, initiated by interested local gentlemen, and subsequently recorded by David Christison (Christison and Anderson 1899). Christison explains that he visited the fort while it was being excavated by Alexander Mackie and James Marr, who had ‘employed their leisure hours for the last three years’ (1896-8) in doing so. Given the extent and importance of the excavations, the Society of Antiquaries for Scotland funded completion of the work along with photographic recording and measured survey and plans by F.R. Coles and architect Thomas Ross.

If you are interested, the report can be found here: Christison, David & Anderson, Joseph (1898-99) ‘On the recently excavated Fort on Castle Law, Abernethy, Perthshire. With Notes on Finds.’ via the Archaeology Data Service.

In the report, they state they found:

• the ‘inner wall’ of a main oval enclosure, measuring c40m by c20m internally, and orientated SW-NE, with a wall varying in thickness from c5.5m to c6.4m and standing to a height of c2.1m.

• an outer wall to the SW of this enclosure varying in thickness, but up c5.5m wide.

• a transverse wall, which appeared to connect the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ walls.

• a rock cut cistern within the main oval enclosure.

• the outer face of both the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ walls was found to contain sockets for horizontal timbers running both from front to back and longitudinally within the wall.

Photo from Christison et al 1898 report showing the scale of the wall and the hollow sockets where timbers would have been situated.
Photo from Christison et al 1898 report showing the scale of the wall and the hollow sockets where timbers would have been situated.

 

Some artefacts were found- notably a jet ring and bronze finger ring.

It was not common practice to backfill trenches 100 years ago, so the features uncovered were left open to the elements.

What are we going to do?

We are going to open a long trench, extending across the features previously exposed, and hopefully we can understand more about this structure with the knowledge we have gathered over the past century.

Trench Location for Trench 1. You can see the old trenches mapped o here, and how our trench extends across multiple features previously explored.
Trench Location for Trench 1. You can see the old trenches mapped on here too, and how our trench extends across multiple features previously explored. This will hopefully give us a comprehensive understanding of the wall structures, as well as a section through the previously unexplored feature between the wall faces.

 

We will also open another smaller trench near the location of the small stone dyke.

We are also hoping this can information to inform potential plans for further monument maintenance. What damage was sustained after being left open and exposed for a century?

 

We are in for a busy, but exciting, few weeks!

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