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Durno, Roman temporary camp, 420m ESE of Westerton

A Scheduled Monument in West Garioch, Aberdeenshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.3342 / 57°20'3"N

Longitude: -2.5023 / 2°30'8"W

OS Eastings: 369860

OS Northings: 827187

OS Grid: NJ698271

Mapcode National: GBR N95B.JF0

Mapcode Global: WH8NF.JXND

Entry Name: Durno, Roman temporary camp, 420m ESE of Westerton

Scheduled Date: 26 January 1978

Last Amended: 5 March 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4123

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Roman: camp

Location: Chapel Of Garioch

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: West Garioch

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

Description

The monument comprises the cropmarked remains of a Roman temporary camp, surviving as the buried deposits of the camp's defences, visible in aerial photography, and the interior area bounded by them. The camp at Durno covers a substantial area currently used mainly for arable farming, but also with some plantation forestry, stock fields and paddocks. It lies across the summits of three small hills on the E bank of the River Urie, and ranges from around 100m above sea level at its lowest point to around 135m at its highest. The camp is located around 6.5km NE of the summit of Bennachie.

Roman temporary camps were relatively safe defended areas where marching troops would camp overnight while on specific campaigns. Troops often erected the camps upon arrival, and partially dismantled them the following morning. Some examples were structures that are more permanent and successive units of troops moving through the area used them. This example represents the largest Roman temporary camp north of the Antonine wall. Although its SE corner is yet to be accurately located, projections of the surviving ditch features give measurements of around 980m NW-SE by around 700m transversely, enclosing an area of up to 59ha. There are five known entrances to the interior of the camp, one around the middle of the NW side and two each on the NE and SW sides. Each of these entrances has a traverse, in the form of a short section of bank and ditch a few metres outside the entrance gap, blocking any direct route to the interior of the camp. Archaeologists believe a sixth entrance was present on the missing SE section, roughly opposite to the example in the NW side. The SW side of the camp is visible as cropmarks for its entire length. Excavation of the S end and angle of this side revealed a ditch around 3.5m in width and 1.5 in depth with a V-shaped section. The NW side is also largely visible on aerial photography, and excavation of a small number of trenches defined the location of the gate and its traverse. The NE side of the camp is only visible from the air for less than half its assumed length. Excavation next to the Easterton of Logie steading revealed the continued line of the ditch and the location of the second gate in this side. The SE side is only locatable by the S corner, running for around 60m, and later ploughing appears to have removed any more evidence for this ditch. In the E angle of the camp there is no evidence for a ditch. Excavation in this area revealed the presence of bedrock at a shallow depth below the surface, which suggests its builders considered a rampart of earth and boulders sufficient for this section of the enclosure.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which related remains may be expected to be found, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the roads and farm structures and yards within the overall extent of the camp, and the top 300mm of all existing tracks and the above-ground elements of all boundary fences and the two electricity transmission pylons within the scheduled area, to permit their maintenance. The scheduled area also excludes the above-ground elements of three sheds (the first, a small wooden shed in the paddock west of Easterton, and the remaining two, one wooden and one corrugated iron, in the new conifer plantation east of Easterton), again to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument retains an extensive amount of its original form, despite being only visible as the crop-marked remains of the camp. The potential for the survival of remains related to the construction and use of the enclosure is extremely high due to its size. The ditch, entrances and outworks especially may contain high levels of buried evidence, including possible environmental remains and dating evidence for the site. Recent work within the interiors of other Roman temporary camps has revealed that a great deal of evidence can survive, and the high potential for remains to survive within the enclosure could indicate the period of the camp and reveal important information on the soldiers who built and used it. The monument has good potential to reveal valuable information about Roman temporary camps, the Roman army and their military campaigns in the northernmost extent of the Roman Empire.

Contextual characteristics

The monument belongs to a group of 225 known Roman camps across Scotland, with another 44 possible examples. The majority of these sites now survive as cropmarks, although a small number possess upstanding remains, in the form of segments of the defensive system. Such camps are found across the southern regions of Scotland, and extend up the east coast as far as the Moray Firth region. We know of no camps in the north-west of the country, and believe this to indicate the Romans felt this to be an unsuitable landscape for the army's advance. The camps are in a variety of contexts, including a number associated with adjacent forts. It is possible to group many of the camps by size, and analysis of such groups often reveals potential routes for an advancing army, with camps of similar size and form being around a day's march apart. The landscape setting of Roman camps is also important, with even those that the Romans possibly only occupied for a single night being carefully located. Surveyors travelled in advance of the main body of the army to locate and define a suitable area for the army to build the camp upon its arrival, taking into account a number of factors such as the size of the army and the defensive potential of the site. In the case of Logie Durno, we know of no other camp of comparable size north of the Antonine Wall, with this example being around 20% larger than any other known camp. It has been suggested that this may represent a meeting point for a number of contingents of the Roman army, hence its larger size. It may also be that we have yet to find evidence for other similar size structures. The position of the Logie Durno camp on a ridge gives it an extensive view of the surrounding land, obviously an important factor in a defensive site. It also has a clear view towards Bennachie, which is widely believed to be the site of the battle of Mons Graupius, and Logie Durno may represent the Agricolan camp for the battle.

Associative characteristics

Since its discovery in 1975, the camp at Logie Durno has been one of the most compelling candidates for the site for the battle of Mons Graupius, fought around AD 83. This battle marked the culmination of Agricola's time as the Roman governor of Britain. Mons Graupius was a battle between the northern British tribes, known as the Caledonians, and Agricola's army during his seventh and final campaigning season as governor. Our knowledge of the battle and the run up to it comes largely from Tacitus, Agricola's son-in-law and biographer. He describes how the northern tribes had risen against the Romans in AD 82 and Agricola had marched north and engaged them. The following year Agricola again advanced into the north-east, where he finally met the full force of the allied northern tribes (around 30,000 strong, claims Tacitus) at Mons Graupius. The Caledonians were arrayed in tiers up the slope of the hill and Agricola's army was deployed before his camp. While Tacitus' description of the battle site is not extensive enough to identify it with certainty, both the camp at Logie Durno and the hill range, Bennachie, opposite bear much resemblance to the description. It is tempting and highly plausible to pick Logie-Durno as the camp used by Agricola's army the night before the battle. Archaeological evidence at the camp and around it may provide a conclusive date to tie the camp into these momentous events.

National Importance

The monument is nationally important because it has an inherent potential to contribute to our understanding of the past, in particular Roman camps, their construction, use and place within the military campaigns organised across Scotland. Its extremely high potential to be the location of Mons Graupius, one of the most significant battles in Scottish and British history, makes it indisputably important to our knowledge of Roman activity in northern Britain. Although no longer surviving as an upstanding monument, the potential for buried remains is extremely high. The ditch in particular may contain buried deposits, and the camp interior also has a high potential for surviving evidence, including possible dateable remains. Evidence may shed light on the methods and reasons used in the construction and use of the monument. Spatial analysis of this monument in relation to other Roman camps may provide valuable information on the landscape location of such monuments, and the relationships between camps and with other Roman military monuments. The loss of the monument would impede our ability to understand the presence of the Roman army in Scotland (particularly the north-east) the construction and use of Roman temporary camps and to definitively identify this site with the battle of Mons Graupius.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the monument as NJ62NE 31.

Aerial Photographs:

G 98433 PO.

G 98434 PO

References:

RCAHMS [Draft], IN THE SHADOW OF BENNACHIE: THE FIELD ARCHAEOLOGY OF DONSIDE, ABERDEENSHIRE, Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Breeze D 2006, ROMAN SCOTLAND: FRONTIER COUNTRY, London: B T Batsford.

Scottish Archaeological Forum 1980, AGRICOLA'S CAMPAIGNS IN SCOTLAND, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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