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Tanlawhill, settlement 480m WNW of

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.2116 / 55°12'41"N

Longitude: -3.2073 / 3°12'26"W

OS Eastings: 323275

OS Northings: 591486

OS Grid: NY232914

Mapcode National: GBR 6815.FL

Mapcode Global: WH6X8.P8XJ

Entry Name: Tanlawhill, settlement 480m WNW of

Scheduled Date: 23 December 1969

Last Amended: 25 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2851

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement

Location: Eskdalemuir

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the earthwork remains of an oval enclosed settlement, interpreted as later prehistoric in date. The monument is situated at around 250m above sea level, at the head of a steep slope on the S side of the summit of Tanlawhill, 330m NNW of Tanlaw Burn.

The monument consists of an oval area measuring 54m by 49m within a stone-faced bank up to 2.5m thick and 0.9m high. Immediately beyond the circuit of bank is a rock-cut ditch and on all sides, except the south where the ground falls away steeply, is a further outer bank. An entrance measuring around 8m wide lies in the NE part of the circuit. Within the interior are the slight remains of at least 25 ring-groove houses, some of which cut into the inner bank.

The area to be scheduled is a clipped circle in plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is visible as a series of substantial and clearly discernable upstanding earthworks, which archaeologists interpret as an enclosed settlement of later prehistoric date. The situation of the monument, the precipitous southern side and the enclosing banks and medial ditch indicate that defence was a primary consideration when this monument was constructed. The intercutting nature of the remains of houses within the interior indicates that occupation continued for a long time because not all of the houses are contemporary. The marked preservation of these earthworks is exceptional and there is no evidence to suggest that the monument has been disturbed or excavated in antiquity.

The upstanding elements of the monument will overlie the prehistoric land surface, which has the potential to contain valuable environmental evidence that could inform our knowledge of the environment in which the monument was constructed. The remains of occupation have the capacity to inform our understanding of domestic architecture and the use of domestic space. The undisturbed nature of the monument implies that it has a significant capacity to contain a number of negative features, such as pits and post-holes, within and around its interior. It is highly probable any surviving negative features contain archaeologically significant deposits, as well as artefact and ecofact assemblages. Excavation of comparative examples has shown that partial human remains may also be present within and around the monument, possibly through ritual deposition. These remains could add significantly to our understanding of the pathology of the inhabitants and their behaviour around death and ritual.

The monument has an inherent capacity to further our understanding of the activities undertaken within and around it and to inform our knowledge of the people who inhabited it, their social structure and identity, domestic architecture and living arrangements. The monument also has the potential to inform our understanding of the duration of occupation, whether there were different and distinct phases of use, and the circumstances within which the monument functioned and any reasons for the final abandonment.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located on the top of a precipitous S-facing slope, close to the summit of Tanlawhill, at around 250m above sea level. The monument is around 330m NNW of Tanlaw Burn, with excellent views in all directions, including to the fort at Bailliehill around 2.5km to the south-east.

Enclosed and defended settlements exist across Scotland, with the main concentration of forts in SE Scotland, between the Forth and Tyne, where 90% of the country's example are located. In eastern Dumfries and Galloway archaeologists have recorded 40 forts, with many more enclosed settlements. Most are located upwards of 250m above sea level. Later land use may have obliterated many more, especially in low-lying areas. The location of such settlements at high altitude may reflect the desire for a defensive location with views across the landscape, the availability of stone for ramparts or an effort to maximise the lower, more fertile ground for agriculture.

The area of Upper Eskdale has 48 forts and settlements, many now located within the forestry plantations that cloak the hillsides and further unidentified examples may lie within the plantations. The pattern of forts and settlements developed in this area from the middle of the 2nd millennium BC to the end of the 1st millennium BC. The settlements in this area tend to range in size from between 0.03 ha and 0.08 ha up to 0.2 ha, a wider range than other parts of eastern Dumfries and Galloway. This example is at the larger end of this scale with an enclosed area of around 0.2 ha. Recent survey and interpretation has suggested a settlement occupied each spur of ground around the river valleys in the area. Tanlawhill fits this pattern, forming a link in a chain of such settlements along the S side of the Black Esk (Hamlin Knowe 2.1 km north-west; Haw Birren 1.5 km to the north-west; Blackhouse Hill 870m to the north-west; Downey Hill 1.6 km to the ESE; Bailliehill 2.5 km to the ESE).

Settlement and exploitation of this area predates this settlement pattern and evidence of earlier occupation exists in the form of ceremonial monuments and burial features, built from neolithic times and continuing into the Bronze Age. Evidence for ritual activity continues into the period of later prehistoric settlement and the exceptional monument of Over Rig, located 2.4 km to the north-east and thought to be a ceremonial enclosure, affirms the special nature of the area to its inhabitants. Evidence of later land use also exists in the form of a series of linear earthworks centred on the large fort of Castle O'er, 1.6 km to the north-east, interpreted as a series of enclosures for husbanding cattle. It is not clear what relationship, if any, the settlement at Tanlawhill had to this wider landscape of which it forms an integral part. The monument has the potential, through further study and through comparison with other elements of the landscape, to inform our knowledge of settlement form in this area, the presence of hierarchies, connections between people and places and land use development and practices.

Associative characteristics

The monument is noted as 'Fort' on First Edition Ordnance Survey maps, indicating that its antiquity was recognised and valued from at least 150 years ago.

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 later prehistoric enclosure and settlement. This in turn can tell us something of the domestic landscape at the time, the architecture, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. Archaeological and ecofactual deposits preserved within the monument may provide information about the environment at the time of building and when the monument was in use. Traces of human remains found on such sites will tell us about the actual people inhabiting the monument. The wider distribution of similar sites can tell us something of landholding and the expansion of settlement/community in later prehistory. The loss or diminution of this monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of later prehistoric activity, not just in the eastern Dumfries and Galloway but across Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record this monument as Tanlawhill, settlement, NY29SW 6. Dumfries and Galloway SMR records this monument as MDG7747.


RCAHMS, 1997 Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 82-4, 130, 163, 299, no 682.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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