Ancient Monuments

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Kirtlehead, unenclosed settlement 1850m north of

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

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Latitude: 55.1463 / 55°8'46"N

Longitude: -3.1532 / 3°9'11"W

OS Eastings: 326596

OS Northings: 584154

OS Grid: NY265841

Mapcode National: GBR 68FY.40

Mapcode Global: WH6XH.JXP5

Entry Name: Kirtlehead, unenclosed settlement 1850m N of

Scheduled Date: 27 January 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12621

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement

Location: Middlebie

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of an enclosed settlement likely to date to the later prehistoric period (first millennium BC) and visible as the earthwork traces of two roundhouse building platforms and a complete ring ditch house. The monument is located on a S-facing slope, close to the summit of Castlestaff hill at around 290m above sea level.

The ring ditch house, the furthest north of the group of features, measures 9.6m N-S by 8.7m transversely across the interior and ditch. It is enclosed by an earth bank measuring up to 2m in thickness and 0.1m in height. The southern side of this bank is less well preserved and is the likely location of the entrance. To the east of the ring ditch is a further arc of bank, which may represent an element of an earlier house. To the south-west of the ring ditch are two building platforms, defined by low backscarps into the slope and with traces of aprons on the downslope side. The building platforms measures between around 7.5m and 8m in diameter. Also visible around the monument are traces of cord rig (lines of narrow cultivation ridges).

The area to be scheduled is sub-circular on plan to include the visible remains of the monument, as well as an area around it within which evidence relating to its construction and use 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 a well-preserved example of an unenclosed settlement. It is visible on the ground as earthworks indicating a marked level of preservation for a type of monument usually difficult to see unless in low light and with little vegetation cover. The monument is interpreted as a form of domestic settlement dating to the Iron-Age (middle of the first millennium BC) and would have comprised a group of round houses built on platforms levelled into the slope.

No excavation has been recorded of the monument and combined with the level preservation this indicates a high potential for the survival of archaeologically significant features, artefacts and sediments. It is highly probable that the ditch and other negative features, such as pits and post holes, will contain archaeologically significant deposits and sediments, as well as artefact and ecofact assemblages. The enclosing bank and other upstanding features of the monument are likely to preserve beneath them 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 how the environment was used and altered through time.

The monument may also preserve structural features, which have the potential to further our understanding of how house platforms and the buildings they supported were designed and constructed. Sediments and artefacts within the monument have the capacity to inform our knowledge of the daily lives of the inhabitants, the activities that were undertaken, the food they ate and how they used domestic space. 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 monument therefore has an inherent capacity to further our understanding of the activities undertaken within and around the settlements and inform our knowledge of the people who inhabited it, their social structure and identity, domestic architecture and living arrangements and any developments of these during the long use of the monument. The monument also has an inherent 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 may have functioned and been finally abandoned.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located on a S-facing slope, close to the summit of Castlestaff hill at around 290m above sea level. The monument is situated at the head of a N-S oriented valley, around 180m west of Kirtle Nick and 100m NE of Cross Sike, both water courses. There are uninterrupted views straight down the Kirtle Water valley to the south and to the Solway Firth beyond, a distance of around 20 km away.

Settlements are the most common form of monument dating to the later prehistoric period. Unenclosed settlement of this date is more commonly recognised in southern Scotland, especially the Border counties, where, as here, they tend to be distributed on the crests of spurs and ridges high above the valley floor. In this area the majority are found close to the headwaters of the tributaries and other rivers to the east of the Annan. However the preservation of such monuments may be a function of the terrain and later land use in such landscapes and the distribution may once have been more extensive, current known distribution being confined to a 'zone of preservation'.

Groups of cairns have been noted in proximity to these sites, however in this instance monuments found close by include three burnt mounds (generally interpreted as prehistoric cooking places) and several areas of cord rig. Another unenclosed settlement is located 870m to the south-east and other enclosures are also found nearby. At present the nature of any relationships between these monuments is unclear though it has been suggested that the landscape may have been a mixture of small-scale mixed farming. Settlement at this time appears to have been expanding with the establishment of new farms in hill pasture and an attempt at limited cultivation.

Further analysis of this monument and comparison with others may prove contemporaneity and evidence a system of settlement hierarchy. Spatial analysis of unenclosed settlements and other settlement types in the region may further our understanding of settlement location, changes in architectural practice through time, the structure of society, and economy. We can use information gained from preservation and study of this site to gain wider knowledge of later prehistoric unenclosed settlement across Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records this site as Castlestaff, settlement: unenclosed; cord rig, NY28SE 37. Dumfries and Galloway SMR notes this monument as MDG11122.


RCAHMS 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, 45, 118, 162, 297, 307, Nos. 580 and 1132, Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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