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Pearsby Hill, enclosures and settlement 1250m east of Craighousesteads

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.1563 / 55°9'22"N

Longitude: -3.1838 / 3°11'1"W

OS Eastings: 324666

OS Northings: 585304

OS Grid: NY246853

Mapcode National: GBR 686T.JD

Mapcode Global: WH6XH.2N5G

Entry Name: Pearsby Hill, enclosures and settlement 1250m E of Craighousesteads

Scheduled Date: 27 January 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12674

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: enclosure (domestic or defensive)

Location: Tundergarth

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire

Description

The monument comprises the earthwork remains of a curvilinear palisaded enclosure, overlain by two later enclosures, all interpreted, according to their form and position, as later prehistoric in date (from the mid-1st millennium BC). The monument lies at around 290m above sea level, close to the summit of Pearsby Hill.

The monument consists of a number of slight earthworks, including the palisade trench of an enclosure that is discernable on its S and W sides. The trench is around 1m wide by 0.1m deep and, if projected north and east, would enclose a circular area around 45m in diameter. The remains of a round house, consisting of a circular platform levelled into the natural slope, are located on the line of the palisade trench on the E side of the enclosure. Another, smaller, potential round house is located immediately to the south-west. A subrectangular enclosure, defined by low grassy banks, lies within the S half of the palisade. This smaller enclosure measures 10.7m N-S by 5.6m transversely. Adjoining it at its N end is a sub-oval enclosure. Two slight terraces, aligned N-S down the slope, are adjacent to the monument on its E side. Areas of cord rig are also visible in the vicinity and are captured within the scheduled area.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area extends up to but excludes a drystone dyke to the north and north-west.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is visible as a series of slight earthworks that archaeologists interpret as a palisaded enclosure of later prehistoric date, overlain by two later enclosures and associated domestic structures. The good preservation of these earthworks, in improved ground and given their slight nature, is exceptional and likely to be due to localised soil conditions that have inhibited animal activity. The upstanding elements of the monument will overlie the prehistoric land surface, which has the potential to contain valuable evidence that could inform our knowledge of the environment in which the monument was constructed.

Apart from agricultural improvement, the monument appears to be wholly undisturbed. It therefore has a significant capacity to comprise a number of negative features within and around its interior, such as pits. It is highly probable any surviving negative features 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 inhabited it, their social structure and identity, domestic architecture and living arrangements. 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 relating to the later enclosures, and the circumstances within which the monument may have functioned and been finally abandoned.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located on a slight S-facing slope, close to the summit of Pike Knowe, at around 290m above sea level. The monument is around 550m N of Priestbutts Burn and around 445m SSW of Capel Burn, with good views to the south, south-west and south-east.

Palisaded settlements form part of a larger group of over 450 later prehistoric settlements in eastern Dumfries and Galloway. Many palisaded enclosures have evidence of later enclosures superimposed over the original structure, indicating multiple phases of construction. In one case, at Gibbs Hill, there is a sequence of five overlapping palisade features on the same site. A progression from timber through to later enhancement or replacement with stone and earth is common in the Scottish Borders but in eastern Dumfries and Galloway timber appears to remain the preferred material at these sites. Evidence exists at several monuments for unenclosed phases of settlement, and here too there are the remains of one, possibly two round houses that appear to overlie earlier enclosing features. This site has an inherent capacity to further our knowledge the continued rejuvenation of these sites with, potentially, multiple phases of use, and to inform our knowledge of why changes in settlement form occur through time.

The monument overlooks Craighousesteads Hill, around 925m to the west, the site of a defended settlement of possible contemporary date. A number of other broadly contemporary settlements and enclosures survive in the surrounding landscape. These include three ring enclosures, around 890m to the WNW, 655m to the NE and 1250m to the E, and the fort at Newland Hill, located around 1075m to the N, in addition to at least two defended settlements, including a palisade trench, at Newhall Hill, around 1780m to the SSW. The monument is therefore an integral part of the later prehistoric settlement pattern in this area and analysis of this distribution has the potential to highlight significant geographical and chronological relationships between monuments.

In addition, archaeologists have often noted palisaded enclosures in conjunction with patches of cord rig in this area, and this monument has cord rig noted around 240m to the west and around 255m to the ESE, as well as areas in the wider vicinity. The relationship of these two monument types is little understood but its significance appears to extend beyond an explanation based on a common survival zone. It has been suggested, based on the circumstantial evidence available, that these monuments, relating to occupation and cultivation, may be linked and probably date to the middle of the 1st millennium BC. This monument therefore has an inherent potential to further our understanding of such associations and the way in which Iron-Age people divided the landscape for settlement and agriculture.

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 later prehistoric enclosure and settlement. This in turn can tell us something of the domestic landscape at the time - the architecture, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. Complex and subtle field characteristics survive at this monument. Archaeological and ecofactual deposits preserved within the well-preserved palisade slot and interior of the monument may provide information about the environment at the time of building and when the monument was in use. The wider distribution of similar sites can tell us something of landholding and the expansion of settlement and community in the first millennium BC. The loss or diminution of this monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of later prehistoric activity, not just in eastern Dumfries and Galloway but across Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record this monument as NY28NW 36. Dumfries and Galloway SMR records this monument as MDG11011.

References:

RCAHMS 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, 121, 123, 152, 297, no. 601, Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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