Ancient Monuments

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Taprobane, palisaded enclosure 970m south east of

A Scheduled Monument in East Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.8283 / 55°49'41"N

Longitude: -2.2165 / 2°12'59"W

OS Eastings: 386532

OS Northings: 659475

OS Grid: NT865594

Mapcode National: GBR D1Y1.XK

Mapcode Global: WH9Y1.XRPS

Entry Name: Taprobane, palisaded enclosure 970m SE of

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12583

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: palisaded enclosure

Location: Coldingham

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: East Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire


The monument comprises the remains of a palisaded enclosure, likely to date to the later prehistoric period. The monument survives as plough-truncated features, visible as cropmarks within cultivated land and is located at between 75m and 80m above sea level on a S-facing slope, around 290m north of Billiemire Burn.

These 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 sections of two concentric negative features, interpreted as palisade slots, forming a sub-circular enclosure and measuring up to 1m in width. The outer slot measures around 53m from NNW to SSE by around 43m transversely. A gap measuring around 6m in the south-east of the outer circuit is a possible entrance. There are two lesser interruptions in the outer circuit in the north-west and north-east. The inner slot is also incomplete with a segment of the S portion, with a projected length of around 36m, entirely absent. There are two further gaps of around 8m in the NE section and 4m in the N section. Where present the inner slot lies between 3m and 9m inside the outer.

In addition, the scheduling includes elements of two linear features, consisting of lines of pits that appear to respect the position of the enclosure. The first, and longest, is oriented NNW to SSE and measures around 395m in length. It lies around 14m to the WSW of the enclosure. The pits vary in size and shape but tend to be ovoid, with the long axis oriented from NNW to SSE. The pits are closely spaced, some appear conjoined, and the greatest distance between any is less than 2m. The second line of pits measures around 95m in length and lies around 11m to the SE of the settlement. It is curved in form and if projected the SW end would intersect with the first line of pits.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in 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 runs up to but excludes the fence on the N perimeter.

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 in 1996 and 1998 and is clearly visible as a series of negative features. The form of these features indicates that the monument is a palisaded enclosure. Radiocarbon dating of palisaded monuments within this region have shown that they were constructed throughout the first millennium BC and into the first millennium AD and the monument has the capacity to further our understanding of their period of use.

The purpose and function of the enclosure is not clear. The absence of features visible within the interior may suggest that the monument was not constructed for occupation but could be equally due to poor survival of such features, or their location in soils not as susceptible to cropmarks. Experience elsewhere has demonstrated that aerial photographs of the same location taken over a number years and in a variety of seasons and conditions often reveal very different features on different occasions.

The palisade slot and other surviving negative features, such as the potentially associated pits, have high potential to contain archaeologically significant deposits as well as artefact and ecofact assemblages. The monument therefore 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 undertook these activities. The monument also has an inherent potential to inform our understanding of the duration of use, whether there were different and distinct phases of use, and the circumstances within which the monument was finally abandoned. Artefact assemblages in particular have the capacity to further our understanding of the nature of contact with other groups of people from within the region, or from further afield, such as the incoming Romans.

The two alignments of pits that appear to respect the monument have an unknown function but a boundary of some sort, either practical, perhaps for animal husbandry, or symbolic for status or ritual reasons, seems likely when considering the length of the features, their probable intersection and other similar features in the vicinity. The pits have a capacity to further our understanding of the relationship between this enclosure monument and boundary features and to inform our understanding of function, phasing, contemporaneity and perhaps development of an enclosed, utilised and inhabited landscape through time.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located on a small mound on a gentle spur halfway between, and demarcated by, the Auchencrow and Billiemire Burns at around 75m to 80m above sea level. There are reasonable views in all directions across the open landscape except to the south where with the rising land to the south of the Billiemire Burn restricts the view. The Eye Water is around 3km to the north, the floodplain of which has a particularly rich concentration of prehistoric monuments, usually surviving as cropmark sites within cultivated land.

There a number of potentially broadly contemporary features within close proximity, with a particular concentration on the spur of land between the two burns, and all visible as cropmark features. Many of these are sub-circular enclosures of varying forms and dimensions. 480m to the south-west, in the crook formed by the junction of the two burns, is the scheduled site of Auchencrow Mains. This is a substantial settlement with a number of enclosure ditches and internal structures visible as well as several linear features that respect the settlement. 325m to the west is a smaller single-ditched enclosure with evidence of one internal roundhouse. 80m to the WSW are the incomplete elements of a double ditched enclosure, while 925m to the south, beyond Billiemire Burn, are the scheduled remains of a substantial multivallate fort.

The monument is therefore part of a much wider complex of features, broadly contemporary but potentially of very different functions, and has the inherent capacity to inform our understanding of the way in which such features may have related to one another, or were constructed, used and developed in a particular sequence. While the rich concentration in this area may partially reflect good survival through sympathetic later land use, this particular monument, when compared and contrasted to such contemporary settlements, has an inherent capacity to greatly enhance our understanding of settlement type and the potential development and patterns of settlement distribution in this region in later prehistory. Comparing and contrasting the monument with contemporary sites both within and beyond the region can also inform an understanding of regional identity, economy and society and has the potential to enhance our knowledge of contact with contemporary indigenous societies and those from further afield, such as the Romans.

In addition, further evidence for the demarcation of land is also prevalent in the area. 400m to the north and 320m to the north-east are two lengths of aligned pits, measuring 270m and 300m respectively, and with two further examples around 1km away to the north-east. Pit alignments as a specific class of monument are enigmatic features and the subject of much debate as to date, purpose, function and significance. Limited radiocarbon dating on examples from eastern Dumfriesshire has indicated that some are of Neolithic origin, while archaeologists think others are much later and date to the Iron Age. Excavation has shown that some can be associated with other architectural elements such as banks and wooden stakes or posts. In this particular example, a date of origin is impossible to prove but the enclosure and alignments do appear to respect one another suggesting that if one predates the other the first was either still wholly visible or at least remembered. The westernmost alignment cuts across the gentle spur of land upon which the enclosure is located and closely relates in form to an 80m long example found in a similar topographic situation at Gallaberry Hill in eastern Dumfriesshire and interpreted as a boundary. The monument therefore has the capacity to further inform our understanding of pit alignments as a class of monument in terms of date, architecture, function, meaning and duration of use and relationships with contemporary features.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, in particular the later prehistoric landscape along the Eye Water, its use and the way in which prehistoric people divided and demarcated it. It also has the capacity to inform our knowledge of contemporary society, its economy and possible ritual life. The good preservation of negative features and their associated fills enhances this potential, as much of the artefactual and ecofactual evidence is likely to survive. The loss of the monument will impede our ability to understand the nature of later prehistoric activity, not just in the SE Scottish Borders but across Scotland, as well as the value placed on such monuments by later communities.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as Billie Mains, palisaded enclosure, NT85NE 74.

Aerial photographs:

RCAHMS (1996) NT85NE 59, 74, 75 Auchenrow, Billie Mains Pit-Alignment, Enclosure : Palisaded, Pit-Alignment : Linear Cropmarks C74070.

RCAHMS (1996) NT85NE 59, 74, 75 Auchenrow, Billie Mains Pit-Alignment, Enclosure : Palisaded, Pit-Alignment : Linear Cropmarks C74065.

RCAHMS (1996) NT85NE 59, 74, 75 Auchenrow, Billie Mains Pit-Alignment, Enclosure : Palisaded, Pit-Alignment : Linear Cropmarks C74064.


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


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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