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Roman watch tower and unenclosed settlement, 310m north west of Strathview Cottage

A Scheduled Monument in Strathmore, Perth and Kinross

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.496 / 56°29'45"N

Longitude: -3.3928 / 3°23'34"W

OS Eastings: 314346

OS Northings: 734632

OS Grid: NO143346

Mapcode National: GBR V7.SMRQ

Mapcode Global: WH6PS.VZJH

Entry Name: Roman watch tower and unenclosed settlement, 310m NW of Strathview Cottage

Scheduled Date: 3 March 1999

Last Amended: 15 December 2021

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM7182

Schedule Class: Cultural

Location: Cargill

County: Perth and Kinross

Electoral Ward: Strathmore

Traditional County: Perthshire

Description

The monument comprises a Roman watch tower and unenclosed settlement of roundhouses and souterrains, visible as cropmarks on oblique aerial photographs. The Roman watch tower appears as two concentric circles and a curving ditch; the unenclosed settlement as two crescents; one circular feature and two dark linear pits. The monument is located in agricultural land at around 130m above sea level.

The outer ditch of the Roman watch tower is a maximum of 3m wide and encloses an area 25m in diameter, the inner ditch is a maximum of 2m wide. To the west and running from the outer ditch of the watch tower is a curving ditch 13m long and a maximum of 2m wide. The entrance to the watch tower is on its northwest side. Approximately 20m to the southeast is the unenclosed settlement, which comprises three roundhouses and a pair of souterrains. The eastern-most roundhouse measures 10m in diameter; the central roundhouse 16m in diameter. The westerly roundhouse is visible as a ditch 15m long. The available aerial imagery does not contain sufficient detail to allow us to determine its diameter. The eastern souterrain measures 11m in length and is up to 1.5m wide; the western souterrain measures 10m in length and is up to 2.8m wide.

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 post and wire fencing.

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 of the past, as a Roman watch tower which forms part of the Gask Ridge system of Roman fortifications and as an Iron Age (800BC-AD400) unenclosed settlement of roundhouse and souterrains. This importance is increased by the close proximity of the watch tower to the unenclosed settlement.

b. The monument retains structural attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past, in particular, to Roman watch towers and Iron Age unenclosed settlements. Buried features such as the watch tower ditches, round houses and souterrains could provide material for radiocarbon dating and environmental analysis as well as artefacts. Detailed study of the watch tower, roundhouses and souterrains can tell us about their construction, use, reuse, repair and abandonment.

c. The monument is a rare example of a watch tower which formed part of the fortified strategic Roman road network north of the Forth-Clyde isthmus.

d. The monument is a particularly good example of a Roman watch tower which forms part of a wider fortified strategic routeway and is 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 in particular, it holds the potential to enhance our understanding of the early Roman presence within Scotland, including the construction and use of Roman military architecture in the late 1st century AD, the social and economic conditions surrounding them, and their relationships over time, and there is high potential for archaeological evidence to survive in and around the monument. The roundhouses and souterrains have the potential to tell us about the lifestyle of the inhabitants and the nature of the local economy such as agriculture and trade. It may also tell us about the nature and duration of local contact with the Roman Empire.

f. The monument makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the historic landscape as a component of the Gask Ridge system of fortifications. The monument also makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the prehistoric landscape by providing evidence of settlement patterns; density, distribution and size of individual settlements; land use and the extent of human impact on the local environment over time. There is also the potential to study the interaction between Roman watch tower and the unenclosed settlement along with the Gask Ridge system and prehistoric settlements more widely.

g. The monument has significant associations with Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Roman Governor of Brittania and military commander of multiple campaigns into Scotland during the late 70s and early 80s AD, culminating in his victory at the Battle of Mons Graupius around AD 83.

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 below the ploughsoil. The monument is a Roman watch tower and unenclosed settlement of roundhouses and souterrains.  

The Roman forms part of the fortified road or frontier known as the Gask Ridge System. An excavation in 2010 identified an entrance to the northwest facing the strategic pass of the 'Dunkeld Gap' and four large postholes for a timber tower. Material recovered from the site has been radiocarbon dated to between 100BC and AD100 (Woolliscroft, D. J. and B. Hoffmann, 2010). Excavations of other watch towers, such as Parkneuk (scheduled monument SM2102) and Roundlaw (scheduled monument SM3532) on the Gask Ridge have shown that they were built during a single phase of activity and in use for a short time period, perhaps only a few years.

Roundhouses were prehistoric buildings, thought to be dwellings. They were in use throughout the Bronze Age (c.2400BC-700BC) and Iron Age (c.700BC-AD500). An excavated example of a roundhouse from Thainstone, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire (Canmore ID 266778) was radiocarbon dated to 30BC-AD260. Archaeological excavation and analysis of the remains showed that the structure had been repaired during its lifetime. Artefacts uncovered from the site included a glass bead; stone tools and fragments of a crucible for working bronze (Murray and Murray 2006).  

Souterrains are narrow low roofed underground passages and were likely used for storage. They are mainly stone lined but wooden examples, such as Redcastle, Lunan Bay, Angus (Alexander 2005: Canmore ID 35800) also exist. The majority of souterrains date to the Iron Age and are a key factor in dating unenclosed settlements of this period. Souterrains at Ardownie Farm Cottages, Angus (Canmore ID 68212) were radiocarbon dated to between 100BC and AD300. Archaeological excavation and analysis identified the bones of cattle and sheep and plant material associated with an agricultural landscape. Artefacts such as Roman pottery; a Roman skillet handle; fragments of querns and stone tools were also found (Anderson and Rees 2006).

The Roman watch tower, roundhouses and souterrains of this monument are likely to contain archaeological deposits from which samples can be gathered for environmental analysis and radiocarbon dating. There is the potential to provide information about the function and date of the watch tower and its relationship to other Roman monuments along the Gask Ridge as well as the nearby settlement. Study of the monument's form and construction techniques compared with other watch towers would enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site and add to our understanding of the Gask Ridge system as a whole. Detailed study of the roundhouses and souterrains can tell us about their construction, use, reuse, repair and abandonment. Artefacts such as iron tools, glass beads and pottery may also survive within the unenclosed settlement. There is the potential to tell us about the wider prehistoric landscape; development of the settlement over time; the lifestyle of the inhabitants; the nature of the local economy and, due to the close proximity of the Roman watch tower to the unenclosed settlement, possible trade and contact with the Roman Empire.

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

The monument sits to the southeast of the River Tay on an area of high ground. The Roman watch tower sited on a slight mound with the unenclosed settlement extending to the southeast. There is also evidence for other Iron Age settlement in the area such as Byres, ring ditch and souterrain 330m NE of (scheduled monument SM7179; 1.8km southwest) and Balholmie Cottage, unenclosed settlement 150m N of (scheduled monument SM7028; 2.3km north-northeast) which would have made use of the rich fertile soil near the River Tay for agriculture.

In the late 1st century AD, this monument formed part of a line of Roman watch towers positioned on either side of a strategic route from the fort at Ardoch (scheduled monument SM1601) to Bertha on the Tay to the north of Perth (scheduled monument SM2403). The tower at Woodhead has views towards Inchtuthil, Roman fortress (schedule monument SM1606; 5km north-northwest) and Black Hill, Roman signal station (scheduled monument SM4233; 5.5km north-northeast) and provides new evidence which extends the route north and across the Tay (Woolliscroft, D. J. and B. Hoffmann, 2010). This route is likely to have acted as a supply line to the legionary fortress at Inchtuthil. The Gask Ridge system has been interpreted as the earliest frontier system in the Roman Empire (Woolliscroft and Hoffman 2006). However, this interpretation has been challenged (Dobat 2009; Hanson 2009) and an alternative theory that the Gask Ridge system is a fortified strategic route has been suggested (Dobat 2009).

Excavations on other watch towers along the Gask Ridge, such as Gask House (scheduled monument SM1604) and Westerton (scheduled monument SM2832) show that they are of a standard configuration and built as a single phase of activity. Although the exact date of their construction is uncertain, it has been suggested that they were built in the AD70s (Woolliscroft 2006). An alternative date that reflects the campaigns of Gnaeus Julius Agricola in the north of Scotland in the early AD80s has also been suggested (Dobat 2009). If the latter were the case the watch towers and forts along the Gask Ridge would form part of a wider chain of forts that may also have served to prevent hostile forces from moving down Strathmore by way of the interconnected glens that link Loch Lomond with the River Tay. Garrisoned by auxiliaries, these forts hinged on a legionary fortress at Inchtuthil intended to house Legio XX Valeria Victrix and it may have been intended as a springboard for further military action into the highlands. However, in the mid- to late 80s AD additional troops were transferred from the British province to support the Emperor Domitian's campaigns on the Danube frontier.

There is the potential to the study the monument in relation to the wider distribution of Roman sites along the Gask Ridge and other prehistoric settlements. It could tell us about the organisation of the Roman military in central Scotland and help us to understand local settlement patterns before and after the arrival of Rome. If the Roman watch tower and unenclosed settlement are contemporary there is the opportunity to study the impact of Roman contact and expansion on indigenous Iron Age settlements and in turn any influence the existing population distribution may have had on the siting of Roman watch towers and fortifications.  

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

This monument is one of a series of Roman watch towers, forts and fortlets connected with Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Roman Governor of Britannia from around AD78 to around AD85. His son in law Tacitus later wrote a history of Agricola from which we gain most of our knowledge of Agricola and his career. He undertook several military campaigns within Scotland, culminating in the Battle of Mons Graupius around AD83, and the presence of multiple watch towers from the Flavian period along the line of the Gask Ridge suggest Agricola had a long term intent to control or occupy the territory up to the edge of the Highland massif and required a secure supply route from the south to achieve this.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 28635; 28702 (accessed on 09/11/2021).

Local Authority HER/SMR Reference MPK3672; MPK6 (accessed on 09/11/2021).

Alexander, D. 'Redcastle, Lunan Bay, Angus: the excavation of an Iron Age timber lined souterrains and a Pictish barrow cemetery' in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, Volume 135, 2005. p. 41-118. Accessed online (11/11/2021) at http://journals.socantscot.org/index.php/psas/article/view/9669/9636.

Anderson, S. and Rees, A.R. 'The excavation of a large double-chambered souterrains at Ardownie Farm Cottages, Monifieth, Angus' in Tayside and Fife Archaeological Journal Volume 12. p.14-60 (Perth, 2006).

Breeze, D J 2006. Roman Scotland, Frontier Country. Batsford, London.

Dobat, E, 2009. The Gask 'system' in Perthshire: the first artificial frontier line of the Roman Empire in Breeze D J, Thoms L M and Hall D W First Contact, Rome and Northern Britain pp.39-48. Perth.

Hanson W S 2009. The fort at Elginhaugh and its implications for Agricola's role in the conquest of Scotland in Breeze D J, Thoms L M and Hall D W First Contact, Rome and Northern Britain pp.49-58. Perth.

Murray, H.K. and Murray, J.C. (2006) Thainstone Business Park, Inverurie Aberdeenshire, Scottish Archaeological Internet Report 21. Accessed online (11/11/2021) at https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archiveDS/archiveDownload?t=arch-310-1/dissemination/pdf/sair21.pdf

Robertson A. S. 1974. Roman Signal Stations on the Gask Ridge in Transactions of the Perthshire Society of Natural Science pp. 14-29. Accessed online (11/11/2021) at https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/56381978

Woolliscroft, D. J. and B. Hoffmann, The Roman Gask Project Annual Report: 2010. University of Liverpool. Accessed online (11/11/2021) at http://www.theromangaskproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Roman_Gask_Project_Annual_report_2010.pdf

Wilson D R 2000. Air Photo Interpretation for Archaeologists. Tempus, Stroud.

Woolliscroft D. J. and Hoffman, B. 2006. Rome's First Frontier. The Flavian Occupation of Northern Scotland. Tempus, Stroud.

Canmore

https://canmore.org.uk/site/28635/
https://canmore.org.uk/site/28702/


HER/SMR Reference

MPK6
MPK3672

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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