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Over Rig, enclosure 750m SSW of Whiteyett

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

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.2298 / 55°13'47"N

Longitude: -3.1875 / 3°11'14"W

OS Eastings: 324569

OS Northings: 593482

OS Grid: NY245934

Mapcode National: GBR 675Z.Q2

Mapcode Global: WH6X3.0TF5

Entry Name: Over Rig, enclosure 750m SSW of Whiteyett

Scheduled Date: 15 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12775

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: enclosure (ritual or funerary)

Location: Eskdalemuir

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire

Description

The monument comprises the upstanding remains of a late prehistoric multi-vallate enclosure situated within a natural bowl-shaped depression or amphitheatre 750m SSW of Whiteyett. Three ramparts, separated by ditches, define a D-shaped interior open to the western bank of the River White Esk. This D-shaped enclosure lies within a larger outer enclosure, sub-rectangular in shape, created by a bank and ditch.

The D-shaped enclosure at Over Rig measures approximately 50m by 20m internally. Its earthen ramparts are up to 5m thick and still stand up to at least 0.5m in height. The rampart of the outer rectilinear enclosure is up to 7m thick, although a track has been cut through much of its length. Short lengths of rampart lie at the NNE and SSW and probably represent part of a series of outworks although there are no visible remains of an entrance into the D-shaped enclosure. However, excavation in the 1980s indicates the river has eroded around 10m of the site since its construction and use in the early 1st millennium AD. The interior of the site appears to be composed of a raft of logs set upon a layer of clay, upcast from excavating the ditches. Artefacts found within this layer of clay, including glass bangles and a rotary quern, were dated to the mid-1st century AD providing a good indication of when the site was first developed. Remains of two circular structures were located close to the (current) riverbank. These may have served as craft workshops as artefacts recovered from their interiors included whetstones and slag. Near the centre of the interior are the remains of a trapezoidal stone setting, whose stones were directly set into the clay raft and covered a layer of fragmented cremated bone. Cremated bone was also recovered from the fills of all three ditches. The innermost ditch appears to have been waterlogged since the 1st century AD, providing exceptional potential for the preservation of organic remains. Partial excavations in the 1980s recovered evidence of woodworking and a number of wooden artefacts, including wooden dirks and a handled scoop. Over Rig is believed to have functioned as a ceremonial site rather than a fortification.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the visible remains and an area around them within which evidence relating to their construction, use and abandonment may survive and for their support and preservation, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all field dykes and post-and-wire fences to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Sited within a natural amphitheatre and overlooked on a number of sides, the topographical setting of Over Rig strongly suggests a purpose other than defence, at least in a conventional sense. Over Rig has no known parallel in Britain and archaeologists interpret the site as being a special place within the Iron-Age landscape of Eskdale, a setting for ceremonies and rituals that may have drawn the wider community together. As a result of, Over Rig possesses excellent natural acoustics because the 'bowl' shape of the landscape of and archaeologists have suggested onlookers possibly observed from the slopes.

Although particularly well defended by a system of ditches and ramparts, the artefacts recovered during excavations in 1900 and the mid-1980s suggest Over Rig was not a domestic space. Quantities of cremated bone, all in minute fragments, were recovered from the fills of all three ditches. More cremated bone was found below the stone setting at the centre of the interior space. The bone samples appear to have been too small to identify whether they were human or animal, but the widespread distribution suggests cremation may have been practiced over a long period. While the two circular buildings follow the typical form of an Iron-Age timber round house, the discovery of metalworking waste and whetstones within them suggests craft or industrial activity. This may have been specifically connected to the ceremonies taking place place at Over Rig. Similarly, the woodworking debris and the wooden artefacts found in the innermost ditch appear to have been produced for a ceremonial rather than a domestic purpose.

Previous excavations were only partial and the monument still possesses considerable potential to reveal valuable information about the purpose of the site and the range of activities that took place there and the construction, maintenance and subsequent abandonment of the monument. There is also the further potential to enhance our understanding of prehistoric ritual sites more generally and the economic and social situation in which they were constructed, used and abandoned. Excavation in the mid-1980s has demonstrated the potential the waterlogged ditches provide and there is excellent potential for the preservation of further environmental remains that can tell us about the local landscape when the site was occupied. Equally the monument possesses excellent potential for the survival of organic artefacts and remains, able to tell us more about the activities associated with Over Rig.

Contextual characteristics

Pollen samples from the waterlogged ditches at Over Rig reveal that the site stood within a landscape of grassy fields. The linear banks extending from the fort at Castle O'er therefore may have been cattle parks and hay fields. A recent survey of Eskdale by the RCAHMS shows Over Rig existed within a densely populated Iron-Age landscape of enclosed and unenclosed settlements. Castle O'er appears to have been the focus of power in the 1st century AD.

Iron-Age religion and beliefs are little understood and archaeologists rely heavily on European and Irish examples to help interpret archaeological discoveries. However, the documentary and archaeological evidence suggests that belief, religion and ritual were special but were not separate or distinct from everyday activities. Instead these seem to have been closely interwoven into the fabric of daily life. Water, whether lochs, streams or wetlands, is another strong motif in Iron-Age beliefs, demonstrated by many discoveries of metalwork, sometimes finely crafted in precious metals, across not just Scotland but Europe.

Associative characteristics

Over Rig appears on the 1st edition of the Ordnance Survey 1:2500 where it is listed as 'Fort, remains of'.

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 later prehistoric ritual and ceremonial sites, their place within the wider landscape and their relationship with contemporary settlement and funerary sites. This monument is particularly well preserved with good field characteristics and with substantial waterlogged deposits possessing proven potential for the survival of environmental and organic remains. The loss of this very rare type of monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of later prehistoric religious rituals and ceremonies, not just in eastern Dumfries and Galloway but also across Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

The RCAHMS record the site as NY29SW 8; the Dumfries and Galloway Council SMR reference is MDG7749.

References

Armit I, 2005, Celtic Scotland, Batsford: London.

Bell R, 1906, 'Forts and their connecting trenches in Eskdalemuir', Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Natur Hist Antiq Soc, 2nd, 17, 80-1.

Mercer R J, 1985, 'Over Rig excavation and field survey, Eskdalemuir, Dumfriesshire, south-west Scotland', University of Edinburgh Dept of Archaeolology Annual Report, vol 31, 19-22.

Ritchie G and Ritchie A, 1991, Scotland: Archaeology and Early History, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh.

RCAHMS, 1920, Seventh Report with Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Dumfries, HMSO: Edinburgh, 70-1, no 175.

RCAHMS, 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, The Stationery Office: Edinburgh, 77-9, 84-6, figs 15 and 76.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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