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Blaebeck, burnt mound 240m north of

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.3557 / 55°21'20"N

Longitude: -3.4324 / 3°25'56"W

OS Eastings: 309282

OS Northings: 607793

OS Grid: NT092077

Mapcode National: GBR 46GH.PX

Mapcode Global: WH6WD.7NS2

Entry Name: Blaebeck, burnt mound 240m N of

Scheduled Date: 23 December 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12710

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: burnt mound

Location: Moffat

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a burnt mound, likely to date to the later prehistoric period. The monument, measuring around 10m N-S by around 6.6m transversely, is located at around 230m above sea level on the E slope of Hind Hill, between two tributaries of the Blae Beck.

The monument consists of an earthen, grass-covered mound, beneath which it is composed of a mixture of reddened stone, soil and charcoal. The monument is roughly oval in shape and measures around 10m N-S by 6.6m transversely and up to 0.7m high. The mound has a distinct central hollow on the W side, which faces onto the E side of the stream. The hollow contains a subrectangular pit measuring 2.8m N-S by 0.9m transversely, which is up to 0.3m deep.

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 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

Burnt mounds are heaps of fire-cracked stone, within a matrix of dark soil and or charcoal and ash, and often set beside a stream. A trough or pit may be set into the inner curve of the crescent, facing the watercourse, and excavation of some examples has shown that the trough may be lined with clay, wood or stone. Most examples date to the Bronze Age but others have been dated to between the late Neolithic through to early historic period. The exact function of these monuments is not clear and they may relate to a number of different processes. The favoured interpretation in Scotland is that they were domestic in origin and probably used to heat stones to boil water, probably for cooking.

The monument survives as an upstanding earthwork, in which the classic form of a burnt mound is clearly visible. In this instance, and unusually, the clear outline of a central pit is also visible marking this monument as exceptionally well preserved. There is no evidence that the site has been excavated and it is very likely that the mound has not been disturbed. The monument therefore has an inherent capacity to inform our understanding of the date and nature of construction of burnt mounds as well as to understand how they may have functioned and the duration and possible phases of use. The potential presence of associated artefacts within and around the mounds reinforces this potential. The mound may have been directly deposited onto the surface of the land and important environmental information may therefore be preserved beneath and within it. This may have the potential to further our knowledge of the contemporary landscape and land use practices at the time.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located between two unnamed burns at a height of around 230m above sea level in a steep and narrow river valley, around 1.9 km east of the River Annan, into which the Blae Beck eventually feeds. The location is a typical one for burnt mounds, which tend to cluster along river valleys and coastlines in close proximity to watercourses, on S-facing slopes and between 100-300m above sea level. There are around 1900 recorded examples within Scotland with notable concentrations in some areas, including Dumfries and Galloway. However, these concentrations correlate with areas that have been surveyed so may not reflect true groupings. The concentration in eastern Dumfries and Galloway may also reflect good survival due to the locations chosen. These are often rural and on the edges of water courses, and so are unlikely to be disturbed by construction.

In this case the nearest recorded example is 120m to the SE, with another example 700m SW and a third 1.4 km to the WNW in the adjacent valley of the River Annan. There is a dense concentration of prehistoric remains with many enclosures, cairns, settlements and cultivation remains found within close proximity to the burnt mound. Further study of these monuments may increase our understanding of the nature of any relationships between them and improve our knowledge of the way in which different parts of the landscape may have been used by contemporary society.

Study has also identified a trend in the average size of mounds; smaller mounds are located in the south and larger mounds further north in mainland Scotland, and the Northern and Western Isles. In eastern Dumfries and Galloway the size of mounds tends to vary between 2m to 12.5m in diameter with the majority between 4-10m and up to 1.2m in height. Archaeologists have identified two distinct groups in the area: smaller mounds often appear in concentrated groups and may have had a single or limited use. Larger examples tend to have the classic kidney shape and may have been reused on many occasions over a significant time. These two types may have served different social functions.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular prehistoric society and the construction and use of such monuments, and their placing in the landscape. The good preservation and the exceptional survival of marked field characteristics of this mound, enhance this potential. The loss of this monument would significantly impede our ability to understand the nature of later prehistoric ritual and domestic practice, both in eastern Dumfries and Galloway and in Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as Blae Beck burnt mound, NT00NE 50. The Dumfries and Galloway Sites and Monument Records identifies the monument as MDG7774.

References:

Buckley V 1990, Burnt Offerings: International Contributions to Burnt Mound Archaeology, Dublin: Wordwell Ltd.

Halliday S P 1990, 'Patterns of fieldwork and the distribution of burnt mounds in Scotland', in V Buckley 1990, 60-1.

RCAHMS 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 293, no. 392.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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