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Prehistoric unenclosed hut circle settlement, field system and cairnfield 340m south west of triangulation point on Gains Law

A Scheduled Monument in Akeld, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.5442 / 55°32'39"N

Longitude: -2.0727 / 2°4'21"W

OS Eastings: 395507.191526

OS Northings: 627836.461195

OS Grid: NT955278

Mapcode National: GBR F4ZB.1C

Mapcode Global: WH9ZH.4X73

Entry Name: Prehistoric unenclosed hut circle settlement, field system and cairnfield 340m south west of triangulation point on Gains Law

Scheduled Date: 29 April 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017954

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29338

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Akeld

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Wooler St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle

Details

The monument includes the remains of an unenclosed hut circle settlement and
an associated field system, including field plots and a cairnfield. It is
situated on a relatively level shelf of land, above a ravine, located on the
lower south western slopes of Gains Law. The field plots, roughly rectangular
in shape, are defined by low banks of earth and stone and by scarps terraced
into the hillslope, both standing to a maximum height of 0.2m. At the northern
end of the monument is a cairnfield which contains at least 15 field clearance
cairns, some of which are connected by low stony banks defining the edge of a
field plot. The cairns are generally circular in shape and measure up to 5.5m
in diameter. Some of the cairns appear to be funerary in character with kerbs
laid down to define their edge; the largest cairn stands up to 0.8m high with
a kerb and a slight hollow in the centre, probably the result of robbing in
the past. A cairnfield lies to the north beyond the field system described
above, but its extent has not yet been established and it is therefore not
included in the scheduling. The unenclosed settlement comprises three well
preserved hut circles, each measuring 10m in diameter and formed by a bank of
earth and stone between 1m and 2m wide; these banks stand between 0.3m and
0.5m high. Two of the hut circles lie within a field plot; the third lies at
the eastern edge of the monument and lies on a platform terraced into the
hillslope. A possible hut circle located near the entrance to a field plot was
partially excavated in 1982 by C Burgess. This revealed a loose stone
structure between 5m and 5.6m in diameter but which lacked a levelled
foundation and contained no internal features such as postholes or indications
of a doorway; this has lead to its interpretation as a stock pen.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Unenclosed hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric
farmers. The hut circles take a variety of forms. Some are stone based and are
visible as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area. Others were
timber constructions and only the shallow groove in which the timber uprights
used in the wall construction stood can now be identified; this may survive as
a slight earthwork feature or may be visible on aerial photographs. Some can
only be identified by the artificial earthwork platforms created as level
stances for the houses. The number of houses in a settlement varies between
one and twelve. In areas where they were constructed on hillslopes the
platforms on which the houses stood are commonly arrayed in tiers along the
contour of the slope. Several settlements have been shown to be associated
with organised field plots, the fields being defined by low stony banks or
indicated by groups of clearance cairns.
Many unenclosed settlements have been shown to date to the Bronze Age but it
is also clear that they were still being constructed and used in the Early
Iron Age. They provide an important contrast to the various types of enclosed
and defended settlements which were also being constructed and used around the
same time. Their longevity of use and their relationship with other monument
types provides important information on the diversity of social organisation
and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities.

Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one
another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone
cleared from the surrounding landsurface to improve its use for agriculture,
and on occasion their distribution pattern can be seen to define field plots.
However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated, although without
excavation it may be impossible to determine which cairns contain burials.
Clearance cairns were constructed from the Neolithic period, although the
majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance which began
during the earlier Bronze Age and continued into the later Bronze Age. The
considerable longevity and variation in the size, content and associations of
cairnfields provide important information on the development of land use and
agricultural practices. Cairnfields also retain information on the diversity
of beliefs and social organisation during the prehistoric period.
A regular aggregate field system is a group of regularly defined fields of
prehistoric or Roman date, laid out in a block or blocks which lie
approximately at right angles to each other, usually with a settlement as a
focal point. Fields are generally square or rectangular and the blocks give an
ordered, if irregular shape to the field system as a whole. They are
characteristically extensive monument types; the number of individual fields
varies from 2 to approximately 50, but this is, at least in part, a reflection
of bias in the archaeological record rather than the true extent of such land
divisions during their period of use, as continued land use has often
obliterated traces of the full extent of such field systems. The fields were
the primary units of production in a mixed farming economy, incorporating
pastoral, arable and horticultural elements. As rare monument types which
provide an insight into land division and agricultural practice during their
period of use all well preserved examples will normally be identified as
nationally important.
The prehistoric unenclosed hut circle settlement, field system and cairnfield
south west of Gains Law are well preserved and retain significant
archaeological deposits. They form part of a wider landscape of well
preserved archaeological sites in the north Cheviots and will contribute to
our knowledge and understanding of settlement and agriculture during this
period.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
NT 92 NE 101,
NT 92 NE 44,

Source: Historic England

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