Ancient Monuments

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Gulf Sike, scooped settlement 525m south east of Arresgill

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

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Latitude: 55.1503 / 55°9'1"N

Longitude: -3.0747 / 3°4'28"W

OS Eastings: 331609

OS Northings: 584527

OS Grid: NY316845

Mapcode National: GBR 68ZW.4K

Mapcode Global: WH6XJ.RT21

Entry Name: Gulf Sike, scooped settlement 525m SE of Arresgill

Scheduled Date: 15 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12762

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: scooped settlement

Location: Langholm

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the earthwork remains of a scooped settlement dating from the late first millennium BC or early centuries AD, overlain to the north of the entrance by remains of a pre-improvement building. It lies in rough grazings on a gentle W-facing slope between 200m and 210m above sea level, adjacent to the Gulf Sike, a small burn close to the W edge of the River Esk catchment.

The scooped settlement is subcircular on plan and measures 32m east-west by 27.5m transversely. It lies within a wall reduced to a grass-covered stony bank measuring up to 4.6m wide and 0.4m high. An entrance 2.8m wide lies on the W side. Its builders excavated the interior of the settlement down to a depth at least 0.6m below the surrounding ground surface. Traces of a possible building platform lie in the SE quadrant. Earthwork remains of a subrectangular building lie north of the entrance, measuring 6.7m NNE-SSW by 4.4m transversely and apparently overlying the terminal of the enclosure wall.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes an electricity pole to the west of the scheduled area. To the south, the scheduled area extends up to, but specifically excludes, the Gulf Sike burn.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The form of the monument, an enclosure wall surrounding a sunken area, indicates that this was originally a scooped settlement dating to the Iron Age. Faint earthwork traces suggest a building stood in the SE quadrant and although there is no other visible evidence for buildings, additional structures probably existed when the settlement was in use. The presence of subrectangular building remains to the north of the entrance suggests secondary use of the site, after the Iron Age but before the agricultural improvements of the late 18th and 19th centuries. There are several other examples of rectangular building platforms overlying scooped settlements, indicating that such sites were often reused.

This is a well-preserved prehistoric settlement. Although there are some signs of later reuse, there is no indication of extensive disturbance and it is likely that a variety of buried remains will exist within the enclosure. Structural remains can help us to understand more about the design, construction, phasing and use of the boundary wall and buildings. Potential exists for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the boundary wall and building remains. These could preserve information about the environment before the monument was constructed, adding to the time-depth represented by the remains. Internal earthworks and buried remains may also contain evidence relating to the creation, use and abandonment of the buildings, helping to inform our understanding of the character of late-prehistoric settlement, including local variations in domestic architecture and building use. Cut features such as postholes and pits may lie within or beyond buildings; they have the potential to contain groups of artefacts and ecofacts that can further our understanding of society, ritual, economy, agriculture and domestic architecture of the period. Organic elements are especially likely to survive in the waterlogged, low-lying interior of the settlement and may support scientific analyses, including radiometric dating. The monument therefore has an inherent capacity to further our understanding of the activities undertaken within and around the settlement and 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 and the circumstances within which the monument may have functioned and been finally abandoned. 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, including the Romans, who may have entered the area during the site's use as a scooped settlement. This monument shows signs of reuse, allowing us to compare the character of the primary and secondary occupations.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located in an elevated position and has views to the SSW, along the valley of the Logan Water. It is overlooked by Gibbs Hill, 800m to the south-west, the site of a complex multiphase settlement that comprises both enclosed and unenclosed round-houses.

There are around 180 known scooped settlements in eastern Dumfries and Galloway. The majority enclose an area of under 0.15ha, with only 60 enclosing an area larger than 0.22ha. Gulf Sike is one of the smaller examples, enclosing an area around 0.07 ha and in this respect is a good example of the type. Sheltered slopes are favoured with defence apparently not a primary consideration. Evidence from excavated examples has indicated that scooped settlements date from the end of the 1st millennium BC through to the beginning of the 1st millennium AD.

Scooped settlements are often located close to larger defended sites and in this case the proximity of Gibbs Hill has been noted. However, it is unclear if the settlements are contemporary and the nature of potential relationships are as yet poorly understood. Further analysis of this monument and others in the vicinity may identify sites that were occupied at the same time and allow a settlement hierarchy to be proposed. Spatial analysis of scooped settlements and other settlement types in the region may further our understanding of settlement location, the structure of society, and economy. We can use information gained from preservation and study of this site to gain wider knowledge of Iron-Age enclosed settlement across Scotland.

The rectangular building remains north of the settlement entrance illustrate the frequent reuse of scooped settlements. The structure has not been reconciled to any documentary references to settlements in the area. Further analysis of this monument and comparison with other examples has the potential to inform our understanding of the nature of the relationship and the reasons for the reuse of the location, perhaps after an interval of several hundred years.

Associative characteristics

Later 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps do not depict the scooped settlement or the later building, nor do they indicate that there was anything distinctive about this area of the landscape. This suggests that the structures here were no longer upstanding.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to inform our knowledge of Iron-Age domestic settlement together with later reuse of the landscape before the era of the agricultural improvements. Domestic remains and artefacts from settlements have the potential to tell us about wider society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contacts with. This monument is of particular importance because of its spatial relationship with the complex, multi-period palisaded and unenclosed settlement remains at Gibbs Hill, less than 1 km to the south-west. Spatial analysis of sites in the vicinity may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. This monument is also of enhanced significance because the waterlogged nature of the settlement interior may have enabled the preservation of organic remains, artefacts or ecofacts with the potential to inform our knowledge of the construction and use of the settlement. In addition, in this area, analysis of scooped settlements and associated cultural material may provide evidence of native-Roman interaction. Its loss or diminution would impede significantly our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape both in eastern Dumfries and Galloway and across Scotland as well as our knowledge of Iron-Age and post-medieval social structure, economy, and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NY38SW 38. The Dumfries and Galloway SMR records the site as MDG10355.


RCAHMS, 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape. Edinburgh, The Stationery Office.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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