Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Caskieben moat, moated site and symbol stone 170m north of Keith Hall

A Scheduled Monument in Inverurie and District, Aberdeenshire

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »
Street or Overhead View
Contributor Photos »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.

Coordinates

Latitude: 57.2824 / 57°16'56"N

Longitude: -2.3533 / 2°21'11"W

OS Eastings: 378797

OS Northings: 821360

OS Grid: NJ787213

Mapcode National: GBR XB.3MV6

Mapcode Global: WH8NW.T7K3

Entry Name: Caskieben moat, moated site and symbol stone 170m N of Keith Hall

Scheduled Date: 16 November 1923

Last Amended: 24 September 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM75

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: symbol stone; Secular: homestead moat

Location: Keithhall and Kinkell

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Inverurie and District

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

Description

The monument comprises a ditched enclosure or moated site likely to be of high-medieval date, and a relocated earthfast Pictish symbol stone of early-medieval date. The moated site survives as a large sub-circular ditch, surrounding a flat central area, while the symbol stone is upstanding and is located towards its centre. The monument sits within the policies of Keith Hall in a copse of mature broadleaf woodland. It is immediately south of a stream that runs into the River Urie 500m to the west.

The monument was first scheduled in November 1923 and is being rescheduled to exclude an area where archaeological remains are now thought unlikely to survive.

The moated site is a substantial earthwork identified by a continuous ditch that is up to 15m in breadth (approximately 4m wide at its base) and 2m at its deepest. There is no obvious sign of survival of the resultant upcast forming additional features to the inside or outside of the ditch (although this is to be expected with such sites) and there is no evidence for a causeway or bridged entrance. The ditch may have been deliberately waterlogged (particularly as this is a poorly drained area) but there is no physical connection visible between this and the canalised stream channel immediately to the north of the site, which may have acted as a water supply. Researchers have argued that the ditch represents a defensive feature of these monuments and this appears to be the case at Caskieben. The interior is a broad sub-circular platform measuring approximately 44m in diameter and the structural remains that survive here are now obscured by the dense ground cover of rough grass and leaf litter.

The symbol-bearing stone (a so-called Class I symbol stone) is a squat whinstone monolith, 1.2m high and 0.65m broad. It is carved on what is now its SSW vertical face, and the top surface contains a scar that channels rainwater and guano down this face. It has a significant covering of lichen. From top to bottom, the Pictish symbols that are carved onto most of the vertical surface are faint but discernible as: a double disc and Z-rod; a salmon (looking right); and a mirror and comb. The stone was originally discovered in 1853 in the nearby River Don.

The area to be scheduled is a clipped circle on plan, centred on the monument, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded from this scheduling to allow for their maintenance are the above-ground elements of all post-and-wire fences.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

This is a large, well-preserved moated site surviving in upstanding form (unlike several cropmarked examples) and it therefore retains much of its structural detail. The ditch is likely to seal evidence relating not just to the use and abandonment of the site, but the environment and landscape surrounding it. The interior is likely to contain the buried remains of timber structures and associated archaeological deposits (such as possible defensive works) that reflect the buildings that were constructed here, their purpose and the activities that took place.

The incised Pictish symbol stone is a valuable addition to the collection of art expressed by Pictish people. The grouping of symbols (Z-rod, salmon and mirror and comb) is interesting here, and two of the familiar motifs are inscribed to relatively uncommon designs (the Z-rod has near perpendicular arms while the comb is thought to be a single-sided comb and not the more common double-sided type). The monument therefore has the potential to help us understand more about the function of such monuments and the artistic and aesthetic character of Pictish art.

Contextual characteristics

This monument is one of a class of high-medieval defensible enclosed sites probably dating to the late 12th or early 13th century AD. We know that other broadly contemporary defensible sites existed such as earth-and-stone castles, mottes and ringworks, and this site remains as a prominent example of a moated enclosure or earthwork castle. It was part of the developing feudal hierarchy of medieval Strathdon and is probably the remains of a minor lord's seat, controlling the surrounding lands (including the hunting ground to the south of the River Don). The presence of a contemporary chapel within the grounds of the modern estate, 1km to the east, supports this theory as the two were often closely connected. Investigations at similar moated sites in the north-east suggest that they were in use between the 13th century and 16th centuries and, in this case, a tower house was built in the 14th century at Caskieben. The location of the tower house is not clear but it probably shortened the lifespan of this earthwork structure.

Some 120 or so examples of moated site are known of in Scotland and they tend to be located in either the lowlands or the lowland margins of upland areas, and focused in NE, E, S and SW Scotland. Caskieben was part of a local network of 11 minor landholdings under the control of the Lordship of Garioch. Each of these holdings would have had a similar manorial seat (or earthwork castle) and in some cases a moated enclosure, and all fell under the control of the Bass of Inverurie, 1km to the west of Caskieben.

The presence of a Pictish symbol-bearing stone dating to the 6th or 7th century AD enhances the site's interest. It is one of 200 or so known examples of this uniquely Scottish form of monument. The stone was found in the River Don and although the archaeological significance of this deposition is unclear, this is an unusual context for discovering Pictish art.

Associative characteristics

Caskieben, as the site was known, was the seat of the James family in the early 14th century and also the name of the Z-plan tower house (and later much-modified country house) that replaced the moated enclosure, possibly in the 14th century, on land immediately to the south. Sir John Keith bought the estate in 1662 when the name changed to Keith Hall.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to add to our understanding of the past, in particular the development of feudal administration, land tenure and the control over land-use in high-medieval Scotland and the relationship with sites such as this. It is a well-preserved monument forming part of a network of lordships that collectively exerted royal influence over NE Scotland. The presence of a relocated Pictish symbol stone adds to this understanding of the past by offering an insight into the culture of the Picts through the designs they carved on stones in the landscape. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the development of this part of the Strathdon landscape and the wider changes that took place in rural Scotland from the 12th century.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as NJ72SE 40 and NJ72SE 46, Aberdeenshire Council SMR records the monument as NJ72SE0040 and NJ72SE0046.

References:

Allen J R and Anderson J 1903, THE EARLY CHRISTIAN MONUMENTS OF SCOTLAND: A CLASSIFIED ILLUSTRATED DESCRIPTIVE LIST OF THE MONUMENTS WITH AN ANALYSIS OF THEIR SYMBOLISM AND ORNAMENTATION, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Volume 2, Part III.

Calder C S T 1947, 'NOTICE OF TWO STANDING STONES (ONE WITH PICTISH SYMBOLS) ON THE LANDS OF PETERHEAD FARM, NEAR GLENEAGLES, PERTHSHIRE', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 81, 1-7.

McNeill P G B and MacQueen H L 1996, ATLAS OF SCOTTISH HISTORY TO 1707, Edinburgh: The Scottish Medievalists and Department of Geography, University of Edinburgh.

Mack A 1997, FIELD GUIDE TO THE PICTISH SYMBOL STONES, Balgavies: Pinkfoot Press.

Mack A 2002, THE ASSOCIATION OF PICTISH SYMBOL STONES WITH ECCLESIASTICAL, BURIAL, AND 'MEMORIAL' AREAS, Balgavies: Pinkfoot Press.

RCAHMS, 2007, IN THE SHADOW OF BENNACHIE: THE FIELD ARCHAEOLOGY OF DONSIDE, ABERDEENSHIRE, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Yeoman P 1998, 'EXCAVATIONS AT CASTLE OF WARDHOUSE, ABERDEENSHIRE', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 128, 581-617.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Other nearby scheduled monuments

AncientMonuments.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact AncientMonuments.uk for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself.

AncientMonuments.uk is a Good Stuff website.