Ancient Monuments

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8 Aytonlaw Cottages, fort 375m west of

A Scheduled Monument in East Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.8411 / 55°50'27"N

Longitude: -2.1447 / 2°8'40"W

OS Eastings: 391037

OS Northings: 660883

OS Grid: NT910608

Mapcode National: GBR F0GW.GZ

Mapcode Global: WH9Y3.1G00

Entry Name: 8 Aytonlaw Cottages, fort 375m W of

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12485

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: fort (includes hill and promontory fort)

Location: Ayton

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: East Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire


The monument comprises the remains of a multivallate promontory fort clearly visible as a cropmark on oblique aerial photographs. The site is likely to date to the Iron Age or early historic period (late 1st millennium BC to early 1st millennium AD). The fort is situated in a natural defensive position at the top of a steep S-facing slope approximately 65m above sea level and overlooking the Eye Water around 90m to the south-west.

The arc of the fort's outline is defined by three concentric ditches, each likely to have been associated with a rampart. The fort's defences are arranged to protect the approach to the head of the promontory from the north, while the S-facing side of the fort relies on the difficult natural terrain and the Eye Water for protection. The fort is preserved in an arable field that is regularly cultivated. The interior of the fort measures around 75m E-W by 55m transversely within an inner ditch up to 6m wide. The median and outer ditch both measure up to around 8m wide. The inner and median ditches are spaced between around 7m and 10m apart, and the median and outer ditches between around 4m and 9m apart. Numerous cropmarked features within the interior of the fort may represent the remains of interior features such as buildings, and there are indications of the survival of a field system visible as cropmarks outside the fort.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include remains above and an area around within which evidence relating to its construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all post-and-wire fences 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

Preserved as a negative or buried feature and visible as a cropmark, the monument represents an excellent example of a multivallate defended fort, likely to be late 1st millennium BC or early 1st millennium AD in date. Although the interior of this site has been regularly ploughed, there is good potential for the survival of buried deposits relating to domestic structures and the economy of the fort's inhabitants. Evidence such as this will enhance our understanding of the social structures and domestic architecture of the Iron-Age people who built and used this monument. It is likely that a rampart would have lain behind each of the ditches and there is potential for the preservation of a buried land surface beneath the ramparts, which may provide evidence of the environment within which Iron-Age people built the fort. The ditches and other negative features may also contain deposits and archaeological features relating to the construction and occupation of the site, and its association with the surrounding landscape, where there may have been field systems. It is possible that the multiple ditches may represent more than one phase of construction.

Contextual characteristics

The significance of the fort is enhanced by its survival in an area of considerable agricultural activity. It monument belongs to a large and widespread class of later prehistoric forts, found throughout Scotland. It therefore has the capacity to contribute towards a better understanding of this monument class. The landscape setting of monuments such as this was an important factor in their construction, and analysis of this can further enhance our knowledge of their purpose and significance. The monument sits on a terrace overlooking the Eye Water. There are good views in all directions, across and along the Eye Water valley. This section of the Eye Water valley contains a variety of remains from the prehistoric period, including a second bivallate fort around 170m east of this example, although the relationship between the two sites is unknown. Along with other parts of the Scottish Borders where there is similar survival, such an extensive landscape of prehistoric remains offers a unique opportunity to assess the Iron-Age environment, society and economy and the relationships between the physical remains of the period. The Eye Water sites are important as an excellent potential study area for such work, the results of which could then be utilised much further afield across Scotland.

Comparing and contrasting the situation of this fort to other examples both nearby and within the wider area can enable an understanding of how such sites are positioned within the landscape, as well as provide enhanced contexts for Iron-Age economy and social structure. Information gained from the preservation and study of this site can be used to gain an insight into the wider knowledge of Iron-Age enclosed settlement across Scotland.

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 to forts and enclosed settlements of the late 1st millennium BC or early 1st millennium AD. The fort forms an intrinsic element of the Iron-Age or early-historic period settlement pattern, development and social and economic environment in the vicinity of the Eye Water, likely an important defensive feature as well as a transport and communication route. Domestic remains and artefacts from forts have the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from, who they had contacts with, provide us with evidence of native-Roman interaction, and may offer an insight into the function of forts. Archaeological deposits preserved beneath the ramparts and within the ditches and interior of the monument may provide information about the nature of the contemporary environment and the use prehistoric farmers made of it. Spatial analysis of similar sites has the potential to inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments (particularly those situated close to the valleys of rivers) within the landscape both in the Borders and across Scotland, as well as our knowledge of Iron-Age social structure, economy and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NT96SW 7. The Scottish Borders Council SMR designation is 1020013.


Craw J H 1921, 'Notes on Berwickshire forts, with a description of those recently discovered', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 55, 242.

RCAHMS 1980, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF BERWICKSHIRE DISTRICT, BORDERS REGION, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland Series, 10, 23, No. 176, Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

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

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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