Ancient Monuments

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Upper Fenton, burnt mounds 1605m and 1740m ESE of

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

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.2182 / 55°13'5"N

Longitude: -3.2611 / 3°15'39"W

OS Eastings: 319867

OS Northings: 592275

OS Grid: NY198922

Mapcode National: GBR 58N3.S7

Mapcode Global: WH6X7.W39H

Entry Name: Upper Fenton, burnt mounds 1605m and 1740m ESE of

Scheduled Date: 15 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12629

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: burnt mound

Location: Hutton and Corrie

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire

Description

The monument comprises the earthwork remains of two adjacent burnt mounds, likely to date to the later prehistoric period. The grass-covered mounds are located around 145m apart on the N side of the Hope Burn, at around 245m above sea level.

The mounds are composed of a mixture of reddened stone, soil and charcoal. The eastern example is larger, crescentic in shape, its open side with a well-defined hollow facing south, directly onto Hope Burn. It measures 9.2 m E-W by 5.5 m transversely and up to 0.6m high. The mound to the west is set a few metres back from the burn and is on the W end of a low but prominent natural knoll. It is roughly oval on plan and measures 5m E-W by 4m transversely and is up to 0.3 m in height. There is a shallow depression on the S side of the mound.

The area to be scheduled comprises a clipped circle and a circle in plan, to include the remains described and an area around them 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

The monument survives as upstanding earthworks, in which the forms of the two distinct mounds are clearly visible. Burnt mounds are heaps of discarded fire-cracked stone within a matrix of dark soil and or charcoal and ash, often set beside a stream. A trough or pit may be set into the inner curve of the crescent, facing the watercourse; excavation of some examples has shown that clay, wood or stone may line the trough. 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. Alternative interpretations have suggested that some may have been more than purely functional and could have incorporated important social and rituals functions.

There is no evidence that the site has been excavated and it is very likely that the mounds have 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, the duration and possible phases of use. The potential presence of associated artefacts within and around the mounds reinforces this potential. The mounds may have been directly deposited onto the surface of the land and therefore important environmental information may be preserved beneath and within them. 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 tributaries of the Hope Burn at a height of around 245m above sea level in a shallow side valley, around 1.95 km SE of the Dryfe Water. The location is a typical one for burnt mounds, which tend to cluster along river valleys and coastlines in close proximity to watercourses, usually on S-facing slopes and between 100-300m above sea level. There are around 1900 recorded examples in Scotland with notable concentrations in some areas, including Dumfries and Galloway. However, these concentrations largely 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 are unlikely to be disturbed by later development or agricultural improvement.

Studies have 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 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. Two distinct groups have also been identified 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 crescentic shape and may have been reused on many occasions over a significant period. These two types may have served different social functions.

In this case there are a cluster of five mounds within an area of 500m across, and a further two mounds have been identified 840m west-south-west and 910m west. Further study of these monuments may further our understanding of the nature of any relationships between them. There are a number of other sites within the area, including a number of enclosures and settlement sites and two scheduled forts. While these are likely to belong to different periods and may be significantly later in date, the exact chronological relationship between them has not been established. Further study of these monuments in relationship to the burnt mounds may increase our knowledge of the way in which contemporary society used different parts of the landscape.

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 burnt mounds, and their placing in the landscape. The good preservation and the exceptional survival of marked field characteristics of the two separate mounds, indicating longevity of use in this area, 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

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland records the monument as Hope Burn burnt mounds, NY19SE 36.02 and NY19SE 36.04. The Dumfries and Galloway Sites and Monument Records identifies the monument as MDG5350 and MDG5349. Copies of these short reports are appended.

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 Buckley, V 1990, Burnt Offerings: International Contributions to Burnt Mound Archaeology, Dublin: Wordwell Ltd, 60'1.

RCAHMS, 1997. Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, 293, no. 385. Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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