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Antonine Wall, fort and shell middens 240m WSW of The Tower, Inveravon

A Scheduled Monument in Bo'ness and Blackness, Falkirk

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Latitude: 55.9989 / 55°59'56"N

Longitude: -3.6827 / 3°40'57"W

OS Eastings: 295153

OS Northings: 679716

OS Grid: NS951797

Mapcode National: GBR 1P.V0LZ

Mapcode Global: WH5R1.DHL0

Entry Name: Antonine Wall, fort and shell middens 240m WSW of The Tower, Inveravon

Scheduled Date: 29 June 1972

Last Amended: 25 June 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3209

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: shell midden; Roman: Antonine Wall

Location: Bo'Ness and Carriden

County: Falkirk

Electoral Ward: Bo'ness and Blackness

Traditional County: West Lothian


The monument comprises a stretch of the Antonine Wall and a Roman fort surviving as buried remains. The monument also includes part of a large cluster of mesolithic shell middens. The line of the Antonine Wall ditch appears as a linear cropmark on aerial photographs while the buried remains of the fort have been located through excavation. Approximately 230m in length, this stretch of the Antonine Wall runs from a point approximately 140m west of The Tower to a point 110m north of Polmonthill Cottage. The shell middens appear as light-coloured spreads of shells visible on aerial photographs. The monument was first scheduled in 1972, but an inadequate area was included to protect the full extent of the archaeological remains; the present rescheduling rectifies this.

Dating to the mid- to late second century AD, the Antonine Wall comprised five elements: an outer mound, a broad V-shaped ditch, an open area of ground, the rampart and an associated road known as the military way. In general the Wall ditch was a broad and V-profiled earthwork, measuring approximately 12m in width and around 3.6m in depth, with a rectangular slot cut into its base. The outer mound was formed with upcast on the N lip of the ditch that created an additional obstacle and heightened the N slope of the ditch. An open area of ground, known as the berm, separated the ditch from the rampart. The rampart was constructed of turf blocks standing on a stone base around 4.3m in width. From Falkirk to Bo'ness, the rampart was composed of an earth core faced with clay cheeks. Generally, the stone base comprised roughly squared outer kerbs with a rubble core and incorporated culverts, box-like stone-lined channels that allowed water to drain through the rampart more efficiently.

At this location, the Antonine Wall, the fort, the military way and a structure known as an expansion survive as buried remains beneath the topsoil. The Antonine Wall has been located partly through geophysical survey, aerial photography and excavation, while the fort, military way and the expansion do not appear as cropmarks and are known only through excavation. Cropmarks represent negative or buried archaeological features that retain different levels of moisture than the surrounding subsoil resulting in the variant growth of the crops above. At this site cropmarks reveal the Antonine Wall ditch as it descends from the high ground of the raised beach overlooking the River Forth towards the low-lying site of the presumed crossing over the River Avon. Running in a generally NE-SW direction, the cropmark of the ditch is around 8m in width and around 195m in length. The fort, first located in 1914 and partially excavated in 1967 and in 1991, is attached to the S face of the Antonine Wall. It is likely to have been one of the smallest on the frontier as its N-S axis was around 34m and it is likely to have measured around 35m E-W. Internally, excavations have revealed stone building foundations and stretches of cobbled streets and part of its S ditch. The expansion survives as a stone foundation, around 7.8m in width, attached to the S face of the Antonine Wall. Expansions were turf platforms on a stone base that were built against the southern side of the Antonine Wall rampart and which appear to occur in pairs close to forts. There is a second expansion 300m to the east, and a second pair to the east of Rough Castle. Expansions are thought to have been used as watchtowers, beacons or signal posts.

The shell middens were created thousands of years beforehand by some of the earliest inhabitants of Scotland. They are part of a wider group found along a raised beach marking a former shoreline of the Forth estuary. Hearths have been found within excavated shell middens in this group indicating that the middens may have been temporary camps as well as cooking places.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around them within which related material may be expected to be found, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes all post-and-wire fences, chain-link fences and field-gates to allow for their maintenance. The scheduling boundary goes up to but does not include the metal fence around the gas governor.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument comprises a well-preserved stretch of the Antonine Wall, excavated on several occasions, and a cluster of shell middens that have been partially excavated. Only the Antonine Wall ditch appears as a cropmark on aerial photographs of the site. However, although no longer visible as earthworks, the ditch, as well as remains of the berm, rampart, military way, expansion and the fort, all survive beneath the topsoil in particularly good condition despite centuries of intensive cultivation. The monument is a good illustration of the way the frontier functioned and how it developed over its operational lifetime. The expansion is of particular interest as only another six are known on the whole frontier, with four in the vicinity of Rough Castle fort and two on Croy Hill. However, the Inveravon expansion may not have functioned in the same manner as the other known examples as its size and shape are considerably different. The Inveravon expansion occupies a poor position for signalling, its only views being of the River Forth and of Fife and Clackmannan (areas where there are no known Roman military installations of the Antonine period). Inveravon fort, whose existence has been suspected since the 18th century, is interpreted as one of the smaller forts on the Antonine Wall. The 1991 excavations show that the fort was added after the construction of the frontier and probably later in its operational life, perhaps as a means of guarding the nearby river crossing.

The shell middens are readily visible as a spread of light-coloured shells mixed into the soil. They are clearest after the field has been ploughed. The shells are a mixture of oysters, mussels, winkles, whelks and cockles. Radiocarbon dates from these middens range from 4060 +/- 180 BC to 2250 +/- 120 BC, indicating the extensive middens accumulated over a long period of time commencing in the mesolithic period.

The monument possesses excellent potential to provide high-quality archaeological evidence relating to the date, construction, maintenance and subsequent abandonment of the Antonine Wall and Roman frontier systems in general. There is good potential for the recovery of environmental samples as the rampart of the Antonine Wall and the fort will overlie ancient ground surfaces, while the fills of the frontier's ditch and those of the fort will contain similar evidence. Such information can improve our knowledge of the local landscape when the Antonine Wall was built and in use. The fort has excellent potential for the recovery of evidence that can enhance our understanding of the everyday lives of the soldiers garrisoned at the fort. The shell-middens have excellent potential for the recovery of artefacts and environmental samples relating to their use. Organic remains offer potential for dating that can inform our understanding of the development of the shell middens.

Contextual characteristics

The Antonine Wall, established in the early 140s AD, represents Scotland's most significant Roman antiquity. Measuring 60km in length, the Wall spans the narrow neck of land between Bo'ness on the River Forth and Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde. Incorporating a continuous system of wall and ditch, the Wall is accompanied at regular intervals by forts and fortlets linked by a road system. Archaeologists believe the layout of the frontier underwent alteration either during or immediately after construction with more forts being added, reducing the distance between garrisons. The Wall is one of only three linear barriers to be found along the 2000km European frontier of the Roman Empire, the other examples being Hadrian's Wall and the Rhine limes, and these are unique to Germany and Britain. However, the Antonine Wall is unique in the disposition of its forts at such close intervals and in the use of a turf superstructure on a stone foundation, an adaptation unparalleled elsewhere in the Roman Empire.

Like other Roman frontiers, the Antonine Wall was intended to control and monitor cross-border movement into Roman-controlled territory rather than acting as a fortification to halt massed attack. However, it is likely that the frontier's physical presence in the landscape, a continuous barrier spanning central Scotland, discouraged small-scale local raiding.

The Antonine Wall has a close relationship with the topography of central Scotland. Much of the frontier occupies the southern edge of the valley formed by the Rivers Kelvin and Carron, a position that offered the Antonine Wall wide-ranging views over the Kilsyth Hills, the Campsie Fells and Kilpatrick Hills, and meant that it was widely visible in the landscape. The route of the Antonine Wall also has commanding views over natural communication routes.

The Antonine Wall formed part of the wider Roman reoccupation of Scotland. This comprises a web of roads interconnecting the forts and fortlets controlling the area to the south of the Wall. To the north of the frontier a chain of outpost forts, linked by a road, extended from Camelon on the outskirts of Falkirk to Bertha on the outskirts of Perth.

Shell middens often represent long-lived settlements or campsites used in the exploitation of coastal resources. Examples with associated artefactual assemblages often date to the mesolithic or the very early neolithic periods (around 4500-3500 BC). They were created through the gradual deposition of domestic refuse and are composed primarily of shells and bone, giving detailed insight into the diet of mesolithic communities in Scotland.

Associative characteristics

The Antonine Wall was established by the Emperor Antoninus Pius (AD 138-61) after successful campaigning in AD 139-42 by the Governor of Britain, Quintus Lollius Urbicus. It replaced Hadrian's Wall as the Empire's most northerly frontier. The Wall remained in use until it was abandoned, possibly after AD 165, when the Roman army withdrew from Scotland and the frontier line shifted again to Hadrian's Wall. The construction and purpose of the Antonine Wall exemplifies the wider system of military frontier management, termed limes, which stretched over the whole of the Roman Empire.

The Antonine Wall forms an extension to the existing transnational 'Frontiers of the Roman Empire' World Heritage Site that includes the German limes and Hadrian's Wall. UNESCO approved the addition of the Antonine Wall on 7 July 2008.

The 2nd edition of the Ordnance Survey 1:2500 map, published around 1900, depicts a short stretch of the Antonine Wall ditch as a visible earthwork. Earlier maps of the area, notably General William Roy's Military Antiquities of the Romans in North Britain, show no remains between the tower at Inveravon and the River Avon. The earthworks do not appear on the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey map of the same field, suggesting they had been removed or ploughed down. Inveravon has long been suspected as the site of a Roman fort. Several writers and antiquarians of the 17th- 19th centuries considered the ruined medieval tower (part of SM 3211) to be remains of the Roman fort; others (such as William Roy) considered that the site of the fort had been washed away by the River Avon. Sir George Macdonald's 1914 excavations by the E bank of the River Avon provided the first suggestion that the fort may not have occupied the high ground but may have lain in the floodplain, close to the frontier's river crossing. This was subsequently confirmed by Prof Anne Robertson's 1967 excavations where building foundations and cobbled streets were uncovered. Numerous box-flue tiles have been recovered from the area of the riverbank, suggesting a building containing a hypocaust system, such as a bathhouse.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to our understanding of the past, in particular mesolithic shell-middens and the Antonine Wall, its forts, and their garrisons as well as the character of Roman frontier systems more generally. The monument has high potential to add to our understanding of the dating, construction, maintenance and subsequent abandonment of the Antonine Wall. There is good potential for the recovery of dateable remains and environmental samples from the fills of the frontier's ditches and the fort, as well as from ancient ground surfaces sealed by the Antonine Wall's rampart and those of the fort. Such information has excellent potential to enhance our understanding of the character of the local landscape when the Antonine Wall was occupied. Aerial photography, geophysical survey and excavation demonstrate that the monument is particularly well-preserved. It represents an important survival an arable landscape where the land has undergone several centuries of intensive cultivation. The loss of the monument would significantly impede our ability to understand the frontier and would erode the overall importance of the Antonine Wall as a single linear monument spanning central Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




Breeze, D J 2006, The Antonine Wall, Edinburgh: John Donald.

Dunwell A and Ralston I, 1995, 'Excavations at Inveravon on the Antonine Wall, 1991', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 125, 521-76.

Hanson W S and Maxwell G S, 1986, The Antonine Wall: Rome's North West Frontier, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Macdonald, G 1925, 'Further discoveries on the line of the Antonine Wall', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 59, 273-5

Keppie, L J F 1990, Scotland's Roman Remains, Edinburgh: John Donald.

Robertson, A S 1969, 'Recent work on the Antonine Wall', Glasgow Archaeol Journal, 1, 37-42.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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