Ravelrig Hill (G-B): Palisaded settlement and Iron Age roundhouse reveal story of prehistoric Scottish communities

Ben Miller

Source - http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/archaeology/art509767-palisaded-settlement-and-iron-age-roundhouse-reveal-story-of-prehistoric-scottish-communities

Roundhouse and settlement show shadows of late Bronze Age and Iron Age Scottish community

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The excavation of Ravelrig palisaded settlement, near Edinburgh, in January 2009© Guard Archaeology

Archaeologists say a large early Iron Age roundhouse with commanding views of Edinburgh, built in two phases of wattle and daub walls with a hearth at its centre between 600 and 400 BC, could have been abandoned due to political or social upheaval in prehistoric Scotland.

Ravelrig Hill hosts the two-terrace settlement, where an oval palisaded enclosure once surrounded the roundhouse. Ring-grooves cut through the underlying bedrock revealed the building, while charcoal and domestic waste were discovered alongside grain grinders, barley and hazelnut shells, suggesting that arable farming and wild foraging took place near wild woods at a time when the farming industry was growing.

“The palisaded homestead at Ravelrig shares similarities with other settlements in eastern Scotland, indicating a continuation of settlement type and construction methods from the Late Bronze Age into the Early Iron Age,” says Christine Rennie, of the investigating GUARD Archaeology group, which has just published its findings for the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

“The analysis of pollen from Ravelrig bog has concluded that the same period, 600 - 400 BC, when the Ravelrig palisaded settlement was occupied, coincided with agricultural intensification, and so may demonstrate the renewed expansion of settlement into the uplands during the first millennium BC observed elsewhere in eastern Scotland.”

Flint and stone artefacts from the site are characteristic of Iron Age production techniques, according to experts. Radiocarbon dating at the hillfort of Kaimes, to the south-west of Ravelrig, suggest that it may have superseded the site in around 400 BC, with residents preferring a more populous and defensive base to the single household settlement.

The original dig at the site, which also has sweeping views of the Forth Valley and Fife Coast, took place in 2009, backed by the City of Edinburgh Council.

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An aerial view of the settlement © Guard Archaeology

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A pre-excavation plan of the settlement, showing hearth waste and the quarry earthworks © Guard Archaeology

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The post-excavation plan of the site © Guard Archaeology

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An artist's reconstruction of the settlement © Guard Archaeology