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Wag of Forse, settlement 800m WSW of Forse House

A Scheduled Monument in Wick and East Caithness, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 58.2982 / 58°17'53"N

Longitude: -3.3582 / 3°21'29"W

OS Eastings: 320484

OS Northings: 935200

OS Grid: ND204352

Mapcode National: GBR L62S.NCV

Mapcode Global: WH6F3.DP2D

Entry Name: Wag of Forse, settlement 800m WSW of Forse House

Scheduled Date: 26 September 1934

Last Amended: 30 January 2003

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2301

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement

Location: Latheron

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Wick and East Caithness

Traditional County: Caithness

Description

The monument comprises the site known as the Wag of Forse, a complex late prehistoric settlement partly excavated in the mid 20th century. It has been scheduled for many years (since 1934), but this extension increases the protected area to include additional areas of archaeological significance, especially to the N and S of the main structures.

Alexander Curle excavated the Wag of Forse in 1939, 1947 and 1948. It presents a complex sequence of structures, all apparently of middle to late Iron Age date (c. 300 BC to 600 AD, very approximately). The sequence appears to start with several simple round or oval stone-built houses. These are overlain and largely destroyed by a circular structure, which resembles a broch in diameter and external appearance but of aberrant plan (alternatively, it may be that this structure was intended to be a normal broch, but was either never completed or systematically altered after construction). This large circular structure, referred to by the excavator as "the primary wag", appears to have stood in an oval enclosure defined by a turf wall with a shallow outer ditch. This structure was in turn replaced and partially overlain by a collection of "wags", substantial but apparently non-defensive buildings with internal upright stone slabs, possibly roof supports. There are at least three such structures, two rectangular with rounded ends, and one figure-of-eight on plan, containing two interconnected sub-circular cells. The latter structure may slightly post-date the rectangular ones.

The structures described above did not represent the whole archaeological content of this site, simply the portions that have been excavated. The present appearance of the site makes it possible to unravel only part of the picture revealed by the excavations, as spoil heaps, later collapse and vegetation all obscure the sequence to some extent. It is apparent that additional structures survive unexcavated, especially to the N and S. These also include later walls, associated with more recent agricultural use of the area.

The area now to be scheduled is irregular on plan, largely bounded by a line running 5m outside a more recent ruined boundary wall on all sides except the NW. It measures a maximum of 193m NNE-SSW by 86m transversely, to include all of the structures described and an area around them in which additional remains are clearly present below the ground surface. This area is indicated in red on the accompanying map. It should be noted that on the SW, S and SE sides, the area now to be scheduled abuts a monument proposed for scheduling separately.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as an outstanding site in the history of archaeological research into the Iron Age in Northern Scotland. It demonstrates a sequential arrangement of structures that is frequently reflected on other northern excavated sites: simple houses, a large circular defensive structure and later complex but non-defensive houses. The details of the defensive structure (especially its similarities to and differences from brochs and duns) and of the subsequent buildings, are unusual, and have been called on in support of a variety of theories regarding the evolution of late prehistoric society and the immigrant or native origin of building styles. The site is the type location for 'wags', post-broch structures with clear affinities to the wheelhouses of Shetland and the Outer Hebrides. Wags can occur both on broch sites in fertile areas and alone in very marginal land far up river valleys. Wags are often regarded as evidence for change to a more cattle-based agricultural system, on account of their structural details and their locations. Despite Curle's excavations, the site has enormous potential for research by further excavation and through analysis of the exposed remains. Further to this, it is important as it is also adjacent to an extensive area of varied settlement remains of various dates, with which it undoubtedly had functional links.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as ND23NW 1 amd 7.

Curle, A. O. (1941), 'An account of the partial excavation of a "wag" or galleried building at Forse, in the Parish of Latheron, Caithness', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 75, 23-39.

Curle, A. O. (1948), 'The excavation of the "wag" or prehistoric cattle-fold at Forse, Caithness, and the relation of "wags" to brochs, and implications arising therefrom', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 80, 11-25.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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