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Palisaded settlements, pit defined enclosure and pit defined avenue, 250m south of Orchard

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Galloway and Wigtown West, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 54.8806 / 54°52'50"N

Longitude: -4.8955 / 4°53'43"W

OS Eastings: 214350

OS Northings: 557818

OS Grid: NX143578

Mapcode National: GBR GH9T.0D0

Mapcode Global: WH2SG.SL0C

Entry Name: Palisaded settlements, pit defined enclosure and pit defined avenue, 250m S of Orchard

Scheduled Date: 14 October 1993

Last Amended: 5 March 2024

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM5790

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: hut circle, roundhouse; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: pit ali

Location: Old Luce

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Mid Galloway and Wigtown West

Traditional County: Wigtownshire


The monument comprises two pit-defined features (an enclosure and an adjacent avenue), two palisaded settlements, a single roundhouse and a scattering of Roman quarry pits, all visible as buried archaeological features seen in oblique aerial imagery. These features date to several archaeological periods including the late Neolithic (3000 – 2500 BC), Bronze Age (2500 – 800 BC) Iron Age (800 BC - AD 400) and Roman (AD 77 – 211) periods. The monument survives in low lying improved pasture, at the foot of Challoch Hill, at approximately 20m above sea level. 

The two pit-defined features include an oval enclosure, approximately 32m by 20m in diameter and comprising at least 19 pits and secondly, a short tapering avenue 13m to the east-southeast, approximately 16m long and comprising two lines of at least six pits, 5m apart at their south southwest end and 2.4m apart at their north northeast end. These features are thought to date to the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age. The palisaded settlements are defined by sub-circular palisade trenches. The western-most of these is approximately 45m by 35m in diameter, with only the northern half of its outer circuit visible. There is a small arc of inner palisade visible in its eastern half, where a break in the outer circuit suggests the position of an entrance. The interior features include a central round house, approximately 10m in outer diameter which encloses a central pit. A smaller curved feature to its west is suggestive of a second round house and there are a further five pits within the settlement. The second palisaded settlement lies 30m to the southeast and is approximately 32m in diameter. This enclosure is defined by two concentric arcs of palisade trenching, within which there is setting of six post-hole features suggestive of a roundhouse, approximately 15m in diameter. There are five, larger pit features within and adjacent to the settlement. In the southeast corner of the field there is a further, single roundhouse measuring approximately 9.5m in diameter. These settlements and features are thought to date to the late Bronze or early Iron Age. At the southern end of the field there is a group of pits thought to relate to the construction of a Roman road, which lies beyond the monument to its south under the Old Military Road, now a public highway, as well as linear features thought to be post-medieval boundary features. Finally, there are over 90 individual pits of unknown date, dispersed around the above features.  

The scheduled area is irregular. It includes the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area extends up to but does not include modern boundary features.  

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a.  The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past as a complex multiperiod prehistoric site showing evidence of settlement and ritual activity. The monument is an important indicator of concentrated prehistoric settlement, ritual and associated activity in southwest Scotland. 

b.  The monument retains structural field characteristics in buried stratigraphic layers. Oblique aerial imagery shows the presence of a pair of pit defined features - an oval enclosure and associated avenue. These features are complemented by two large, later settlements defined by palisade trenches with internal settlement in the form of two round houses also defined by post holes. A further, unenclosed, roundhouse is also present. The presence of Roman road quarry pits adds to the importance of the monument. There is likely to be additional surviving buried features, components, artefacts and environmental evidence which is not captured in the available remote imagery. The monument can significantly add to our understanding of ritual or ceremonial activity, domestic settlement, agriculture and economy during the Neolithic, Bronze Age or Iron Age.  

c.   The monument is an uncommon concentration of features with considerable archaeological time-depth likely to represent ceremonial and ritual activity, settlement and related activities dating from the late Neolithic period onwards. The monument is characterised by pit and palisade defined features as well as a large, dispersed group of pits.  

d.   The monument is a particularly good example of a pair of Late Neolithic/ Early Bronze Age pit defined features which are both rare in the archaeological record. Their importance is increased due to their close proximity as they may be contemporary and are therefore an important representative of this monument type.

e.   The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past and specifically, the use of space for ceremony and ritual, settlement and domestic activity as well as routing and land management information during prehistoric and historic periods.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

This monument has been recorded as cropmarks on aerial photographs and survives as buried deposits in and below the ploughsoil. The imagery shows a dense group of over 100 individual features comprising ditches, pits, postholes and the visible remains of structures that represent various ceremonial, ritual and domestic activities with significant time-depth, from the Late Neolithic period onwards.

There are likely to be at least four clear phases of activity here – Late Neolithic / Early Bronze Age is represented by an enclosure and adjacent short avenue, both defined by pits (each of up to 2.5m in diameter). These are likely to reflect ceremonial and possibly ritual aspects of prehistoric life and may be contemporary. Late Bronze or Iron Age occupation is represented by two palisaded settlements, containing individual round houses and the remains of domestic occupation. The form of enclosure here is interesting as a roughly circular arrangement of twin ditches used to create each. In addition to the roundhouses within, there is an outlying roundhouse at the southeast corner of the field, which is likely to be broadly contemporary. The Roman presence is visible in the linear arrangement of quarry pits, located along the southern boundary of the field and forming the outlying construction remains of a Roman road. Also visible in this area are the remains of linear features thought to be boundaries dating to post-medieval periods. Finally, the presence of a wider distribution of over 90 undated pits located in the space around these features adds to our interest.  

Archaeological monuments often contain features that are not visible in aerial photographs and can have well preserved stratified layers of archaeological deposits. There is therefore potential for the survival of archaeological features and deposits, including occupation and abandonment debris, artefacts and environmental remains (such as charcoal or pollen within the pits, postholes, enclosures and roundhouses). Collectively, these structures and deposits have an inherent potential to inform our understating of practices associated with a wide range of prehistoric and later activity – ritual and ceremony, settlement and domesticity, road construction and later land management, from the late Neolithic period onwards. The monument has the potential to provide information about the function and date of the features and their relationship to each other. Study of the monument's form and construction techniques compared with other enclosures, avenues and houses can enhance our understanding of development and sequencing at the site.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

The monument represents a dense and diverse range of prehistoric and historic activities with significant time-depth. The pit-defined enclosure and avenue are notable, relatively rare examples of the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age exploitation of southwest Scotland thought to have a ceremonial or ritual function. There is a large group of similar, contemporary features only 750m to the southeast, to the south of Dunragit (Canmore ID 79822, scheduled monument SM5852). The partial excavation of these features has revealed significant structural remains, pointing to the high archaeological potential of this monument. This monument is a component of a significant local concentration or complex of late Neolithic and Bronze Age activity, in the low-lying ground between Loch Ryan and Luce Bay. It represents the wider exploitation of land and how prehistoric communities practised ceremonial, ritual and domestic activities.

The two palisaded settlements belong to a larger, widely dispersed category of similar monuments, of which only approximately 140 have been recorded in Scotland. They are part of a more local clustering of such sites in western Dumfries and Galloway. The component roundhouses within and outside of these settlements are indicative of the domestic function of such enclosures.

The quarry pits are diagnostic engineering elements of one section of Roman road and part of the wider network, linking the Rhins of Galloway with roads and routeways to the east. Finally, the array of pits and much later boundary features evidence further activity in the immediate area and a diversity in the use of space. Taken together, this is a dense, accumulated complex of monuments, components and features from over four thousand years of activity, in low lying ground to the West of Challoch Hill, overlooking Luce bay to the South and a reflection on the value placed upon land here by successive prehistoric and later communities. There is potential to study these sites together to better understand their functions within the local communities, settlement hierarchy and possible chronological development in the area. The monument has the potential to enhance and broaden our understanding of prehistoric society and community as well as ritual, ceremonial and social organisation, land division and land use.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to the site's national importance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE Ida 61234, 61235, 78913, 78914, 78915, 79387 (accessed on 16/06/2023).

Local Authority HER/SMR References MDG1295, MDG1296, MDG5063, MDG9231 (accessed on 16/06/2023).

Bailie W, 2021, Dunragit. The prehistoric heart of Galloway. Online monograph: (

McMorran, R. 2007, A75 Improvement Scheme - Planting End to Drumflower, Dumfries and Galloway (Dumfries parish), evaluation in Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, vol. 8, 2007. Cathedral Communications Limited, Wiltshire, England

RCAHMS, 1987, The archaeological sites and monuments of East Rhins, Wigtown District, Dumfries and Galloway Region, The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series no 26. Edinburgh.

RCAHMS, 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire. An archaeological landscape. RCAHMS. The Stationery Office. Edinburgh.

Truckell, A E, 1984, Some lowland native sites in Western Dumfriesshire and Galloway, in Miket, R and Burgess, C, Between and beyond the Walls: essays on the prehistory and history of North Britain in honour of George Jobey. Edinburgh


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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