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Long Knowe, settlement 905m south west of Monkenshaw

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale East and Eskdale, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.2873 / 55°17'14"N

Longitude: -3.2309 / 3°13'51"W

OS Eastings: 321924

OS Northings: 599937

OS Grid: NY219999

Mapcode National: GBR 57W9.BF

Mapcode Global: WH6WW.BCQH

Entry Name: Long Knowe, settlement 905m SW of Monkenshaw

Scheduled Date: 17 March 1976

Last Amended: 13 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3819

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement

Location: Eskdalemuir

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of a defended settlement that has been dated to the 1st millennium BC. A low earth-and-stone bank survives above ground, forming a roughly oval-shaped enclosure. Buried remains of an external ditch lie beyond the bank to the west and north. An excavation conducted in 1976 shows that the remains of about 10 roundhouses survive within the interior and that waterlogged wood exists within the ditch. The site lies within a clearing in a forestry plantation on a broad spur jutting out into the valley of the Monkenshaw Burn, 3km west of the River Esk. It occupies an upland location at about 335m above sea level, overlooked by higher ground to the west but enjoying good views to the south and south-west. The monument was first scheduled in 1976, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The low bank encloses an area measuring about 60m SW-NE by 45m transversely. The bank measures up to 2m wide and 0.6m high though it may originally have been about 1.5m high. In 1976 the S entrance and part of the E entrance were excavated. The example to the south is 2.2m wide and 3m long with a pair of postholes for gate posts set midway through the opening. More complex timber features seem probable at the E gate. Coring has revealed an external ditch immediately beyond the bank to the west and north-west, extending for some 70m around the enclosure where relatively easy access to the settlement is possible from higher ground. Sample excavation has shown it to be 1.1m wide and 0.5m deep with waterlogged wood surviving just above the lowest fill. Excavation has also demonstrated a slight counterscarp bank beyond the ditch with a palisade of birch stakes along part of its length. In the interior, excavation showed open areas in front of the S and E gates and at least 10 roundhouses elsewhere in the enclosure, with evidence for at least three phases of building. Radiocarbon dating suggests wood found near the bottom of the ditch came from trees growing in the early to mid-1st millennium BC.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area extends up to but specifically excludes a forestry road to the south-east and a burn to the south-west.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

This monument represents a later prehistoric defended settlement in an upland context with good evidence for internal structures from several building phases. The external ditch with counterscarp bank and palisade to the west and north show defensive intent on the part of the inhabitants. The whole area was ploughed during forestry planting in 1972 but in 1976 archaeologists excavated the site specifically to test the extent of the damage that such ploughing causes. The ploughing had created relatively narrow scars just under 2m apart but the buried archaeological remains appear otherwise to be well preserved. It is clear that complex archaeological remains survive below ground that relate both to the defences and to internal structural features. These remains can help us to understand more about both the defensive structures and the design, construction, phasing and use of internal dwellings. Potential exists for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the bank; these could preserve information about the environment before the site was constructed, adding to the time-depth represented by the remains. Ecofacts including wood and animal bone survive in waterlogged conditions within the ditch, and artefacts may also be present. Radiocarbon dating suggests two pieces of wood from the same layer close to the ditch base were from trees growing in 925-370 BC and 400-155 or 140-123 BC. Researchers suggest the earlier of the two date ranges is more reliable, but interpretation of the dates remains problematic. It is probable that further excavation and sampling using modern selection and dating methods would give more reliable and detailed dating evidence. Pollen has been recovered and studied, indicating that the settlement lay in an area that was virtually treeless by the end of the 1st millennium BC. Again, there is significant potential that further pollen sampling and analysis would provide more detailed and reliable results. This could help us build up a picture of the environment and land cover at the time the settlement was in use, giving an understanding of the agricultural regime practised. The excavator suggested the site may represent the upland end of a transhumance system in Eskdale and surviving remains offer the possibility of testing this model. The house footings may contain evidence relating to the creation, use and abandonment of the settlement, helping to inform our understanding of the character of late prehistoric defended settlement including local variations in domestic architecture and building use. Negative features such as post-holes and pits may contain archaeologically significant deposits that can further our understanding of society, ritual, economy, agriculture and domestic architecture at the time and may include human remains. The presence of house remains from at least three different phases gives the potential to explore issues such as the duration of house occupation, the nature of abandonment processes and the extent to which occupation of the site was continuous or episodic. The excavator found evidence of blanket peat covering the Iron-Age remains to a depth of 0.3m-0.8m. Because the peat was overlying what appeared to be dung in the yard, he argued that it formed soon after use of the site and that climatic deterioration may have been a factor in abandonment. Other researchers have questioned this interpretation and the surviving deposits offer potential to readdress this important issue.

Contextual characteristics

Defended settlements were built at various times from at least the end of the late Bronze Age (around 800 BC) until probably the end of the early Middle Ages (around 1000 AD). It is clear that at some sites the first defensive systems began to appear in the Bronze Age. However, the majority of monuments excavated so far have produced evidence for Iron-Age occupation, ranging from the mid- to late 1st millennium BC. The construction and layout of defended settlements and associated dwellings, including size, number of entrances, design and placement in the landscape are all important in understanding this type of monument and this site has the potential to support a wide range of analyses. By comparing this monument to others of its type we can learn more about defended settlements and associated dwellings in eastern Dumfries and Galloway and more widely across Scotland. Deposits appear to have accumulated in the ditch at this site around the middle of the 1st millennium BC. More refined sampling and dating in future has the potential to contribute to and enhance our model of the creation, use and abandonment of defended settlements both locally and regionally. In addition, this monument has the potential to support pollen sampling and analysis. Work done to date suggests the settlement occupied an open landscape, though without cereal cultivation; future pollen analysis has the potential to refine and strengthen our understanding of the environment and economy of defended settlements in the uplands. The settlement lies in a relatively remote upland context, overlooking the valley of a small tributary of the Esk and the evidence for early clearance here has wide implications for our understanding of the date and extent of tree clearance and settled occupation in Eskdale as a whole. This settlement also has the potential to contribute to a comparison of the character of settlement in Eskdale and neighbouring Annandale. It presently appears that upper Annandale was characterised by a proliferation of small settlement units, while in Eskdale there were proportionally more larger units such as this site, more closely spaced.

Associative characteristics

The OS 1st and 2nd Edition maps published in the later 19th century both depict the enclosure bank, labelling the site as a 'fort'.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the study of defended settlement in later prehistoric SW Scotland. It survives to a limited degree above ground but there is good evidence for extensive and complex archaeological remains below the surface. This buried evidence comprises waterlogged ecofacts in ditch fills as well as structural remains from at least three phases. The monument has a particular capacity to inform debate on continuity and phases of settlement and changes in settlement type through time. It has the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. Its importance is increased by proximity to other monuments of potentially contemporary date and the capacity it therefore has to inform us about the nature of relationships between monuments of different function. Spatial analysis of sites may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. Its loss or diminution would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape both in Dumfries and Galloway and in other parts of Scotland, as well as our knowledge of later prehistoric social structure, economy and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NY29NW 1 (a copy of their short report is appended). The Dumfries and Galloway SMR records the site as MDG7616.


Mercer, R 1981, 'The excavation of an earthwork enclosure at Long Knowe, Eskdale, Dumfriesshire, 1976', Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Nat Hist Antiq Soc, 3 Ser, 56, 38-72.

RCAHMS, 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape. Edinburgh, The Stationery Office.

RCAHMS, 1920, Seventh Report with Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Dumfries, HMSO: Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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