Ancient Monuments

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Cairnbank, settlement 210m ENE of

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.7765 / 55°46'35"N

Longitude: -2.3244 / 2°19'27"W

OS Eastings: 379747

OS Northings: 653737

OS Grid: NT797537

Mapcode National: GBR D16N.K3

Mapcode Global: WH8X8.82DG

Entry Name: Cairnbank, settlement 210m ENE of

Scheduled Date: 4 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12538

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement

Location: Duns

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Mid Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire


The monument comprises the remains of an enclosed settlement dated to the Iron Age (late centuries BC/early centuries AD) and extant as cropmarks within cultivated land. The monument is located at around 130m above sea level on a low rise some 490m to the east of Duns.

Cropmarks represent negative archaeological features, the fills of which retain more moisture than the surrounding subsoil, resulting in the enhanced growth of the crops above. The visible traces of the monument consist of an outer, ovoid ditch enclosing an area that measures 110m from ENE to WSW by 90m transversely. The ditch measures between 3m and 8m in width, the north half being the generally broader. There is a gap of around 12m at the W end and a wider gap of around 35m at the E end. It is unclear if one or both of these was originally an entrance.

A narrower ditch, with corresponding gaps, sits between 5m and 10m inside and parallel to the outer ditch. This ditch measures between 1m and 3m wide. Between the inner and outer ditches in the south-west of the monument are two sections of a further negative feature sitting parallel to the outer ditch; these measure 32m and 22m in length and have a width of less than 1m. In addition there are eight more amorphous features within the S interior of the monument and a further two between the inner and outer ditches to the south. The monument is not visible at ground level.

The area to be scheduled is circular in plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded from the scheduling to allow for their maintenance are the above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence and telegraph poles that cross the monument, on the same alignment, from NNW to SSE.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument has been identified from a series of oblique aerial photographs taken between 1993 and 2000 and survives as a number of clearly visible negative features. The form of the visible remains indicates these features represent the ditch of an enclosed settlement of Iron-Age date. The narrower, inner ditch is interpreted on the basis of excavated evidence from comparable sites as a slot for a palisaded enclosure. The monument therefore has an inherent capacity to inform our understanding of phases of use of such sites and potential changes in style and function through time.

The number of features within the interior of the monument indicates a good survival of evidence relating to the occupation and use of the settlement. It is highly probable that the ditches and other surviving negative features contain archaeologically significant deposits as well as artefact and ecofact assemblages. Similar monuments, when excavated, have shown good survival of stratified deposits relating to occupation. The monument therefore has an inherent capacity to further our understanding of the activities undertaken within and around the fort and inform our knowledge of the people who lived within, their social structure and identity, domestic architecture and living arrangements, and the nature of contact with other groups of people from within the region, or from further afield, such as the incoming Romans.

Evidence from contemporary monuments of similar form indicates that the ditches would have had banks of up cast between them, forming a further boundary element around the settlement. Vestiges of these banks, and other positive features, are likely to preserve traces of the land surface and soils upon which the monument was created. These have the capacity to inform our knowledge of the environment within which the monument was constructed and can further our understanding of the how the environment was used and altered through time.

The association of the palisade slot with the concentric ditches has been shown on similar sites to represent a chronological development in settlement form. Evidence suggests a sequence in which an initial, palisaded enclosure is succeeded, or augmented, by banks and ditches. The monument therefore has the capacity to significantly inform our knowledge of the development of such sites through time and to further our understanding of the relationship between the different forms of enclosure. The monument may also contain archaeologically significant deposits that have the capacity to inform our knowledge of how and when the monument was finally abandoned and if there were any phases of reuse.

In addition the apparently defensible nature of the monument, whether symbolically or practically, in the form of banks, ditches and the palisade would indicate that it has the capacity to further our understanding of how the occupants viewed the world in which they lived. There is an inherent potential for evidence represented within the monument to add to our knowledge of how society and social networks may have functioned and the ways in which power and influence may have been negotiated and resolved.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located on the N side of a small knoll, some 150m by 90m in extent and situated within a fertile area of land between the confluence of the Blackadder and Whiteadder waters, situated 6.8km to the east.

There are extensive views from the monument in all directions, especially to the south. Clearly visible 1.5km to the north-west is the contemporary fort of Duns Law. There are several other enclosures, surviving as cropmarks within the vicinity. 675m to the south is the single enclosure ditch of Peelrig, whilst 1.8km to the NE is another single ditched enclosure at Buxley. However the presence of a palisade, indicating possibly different phases of construction and use, and perhaps a defensive function, and the visibly evident survival of internal features is not common in this area.

The monument has an inherent potential to further our understanding of settlement distribution and patterns within the region in later prehistory. As part of a group of contemporary group of monuments it has an inherent capacity to further our knowledge of society, economy and identity within SE Scotland in later prehistory. Comparing and contrasting evidence from these broadly contemporary sites will further our knowledge of architectural form and function of such sites and the nature of their use and occupation. As part of a group of similar monuments located within an area known to have been in contact and close proximity with the incoming Romans, the monument has the potential to inform our knowledge of the mechanisms of contact and influence between the two societies.

Associative characteristics

The monument is located within a field known as Pyket-Cairn. It is likely that the field acquired its name from cairn or similar upstanding monument, the location of which has now been lost.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to an understanding of the past, in particular later prehistoric enclosed settlement and defensive architecture, as well as the nature of contact between Iron-Age societies and also with the Roman Empire. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to comprehend many aspects of Iron-Age society within SE Scotland and further afield.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as Cairnbank, settlement NT75SE 71. The Scottish Borders Council SMR records the monument as 1090028.

Aerial photographs:

RCAHMS (1994) NT75SE 71 Cairnbank, settlement C 29568.

RCAHMS (1994) NT75SE 71 Cairnbank, settlement C 28938.


Dent J and McDonald R 1997, EARLY SETTLERS IN THE BORDERS, Scottish Borders Council.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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