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Hillside, roundhouses 690m WSW of and 780m and 830m south west of

A Scheduled Monument in Inverclyde East, Inverclyde

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.8897 / 55°53'22"N

Longitude: -4.7312 / 4°43'52"W

OS Eastings: 229295

OS Northings: 669653

OS Grid: NS292696

Mapcode National: GBR 35.1ZFX

Mapcode Global: WH2MQ.9797

Entry Name: Hillside, roundhouses 690m WSW of and 780m and 830m SW of

Scheduled Date: 24 February 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12868

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: hut circle, roundhouse

Location: Kilmacolm

County: Inverclyde

Electoral Ward: Inverclyde East

Traditional County: Renfrewshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of three prehistoric roundhouses, dating to sometime between 2500 BC and AD 400. The houses are visible as low grass-grown banks and arcs of stones and are placed at intervals of around 100m. They lie between 225m and 240m above sea level on the south side of the valley of the Green Water, on a gentle north-facing slope. There are long views down the valley to the east.

The most northerly house of the group stands on a low rise adjacent to a tributary of the Green Water. It is visible as a grass-covered stony bank forming a ring, with gaps to the north-east and north-west suggesting the position of one or more entrances. The roundhouse measures 10m in diameter, the banks standing to a maximum height of around 0.5m. To the south-west, low stony banks indicate the position of a small annex or enclosure adjoining the house, measuring around 7m NE-SW by 5m transversely. A second house lies about 100m to the SSW, again sited close to a small burn. It is visible as a low ring of stones, measuring 5m in external diameter and 3m internally, and is best preserved on the S side. The third house lies around 105m SSE of the second. Its NW wall is visible as a well-defined grass-grown bank, 0.9m wide with stones protruding. Elsewhere, the wall is visible as an intermittent arc of stones defining an area 10m in diameter.

The three areas to be scheduled include the remains described and areas around them within which evidence relating to the monuments' construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The northern area is irregular on plan, the others circular. The northernmost area extends up to, but excludes, a post-and-wire fence to the west of the monument. In the middle area, the above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence are also specifically excluded to allow for its maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

This monument represents an area of prehistoric unenclosed settlement. The relationship between the three houses is presently unknown. They might be contemporary but could equally reflect occupation of this area over several generations. The remains survive in good condition, with the condition of the northern roundhouse in particular being excellent. Although the visible upstanding remains are relatively low, their good condition suggests that complex archaeological deposits survive below ground. These deposits offer the potential to understand more about the design, construction, phasing and use of the dwellings, allowing researchers to build up a picture of the activities that took place on the site, the physical conditions, and the environment and land cover at the time. The upstanding banks of the house walls may contain evidence relating to the creation, use and abandonment of the structures, helping to inform our understanding of the character of prehistoric unenclosed settlement including local variations in domestic architecture and building use. Potential also exists for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the banks. These could preserve information about the environment before the site was constructed, adding to the time-depth represented by the remains. Cut features, such as post-holes and pits, may contain archaeologically significant deposits, including artefacts and ecofacts, that can further our understanding of society, ritual, economy, agriculture and domestic architecture, and (on the basis of comparable sites elsewhere) may also include human remains. The potential presence of house remains from different periods gives the possibility of exploring issues such as the duration of house occupation, the extent to which occupation of the site was continuous and the nature of abandonment processes.

Contextual characteristics

Researchers have little firm evidence for the evolution of prehistoric settlement types in SW Scotland, giving sites such as this considerable potential to contribute to a better understanding in future. Scientific dating has not been widely applied and the precise date of most prehistoric settlements is uncertain. Radiocarbon dating of material from recent work on stone-walled roundhouses at Picketlaw in Renfrewshire suggests that the houses started in the Middle Bronze Age (around 1800-1200 BC) and continued in use into the Late Bronze Age (1200-800 BC). Further afield, excavation at Lintshie Gutter in Clydesdale shows that unenclosed settlements of hut platforms date to around 2000-1500 BC. While it is difficult to identify unenclosed roundhouses that definitely derive from the Iron Age (800 BC-AD 400), researchers believe that upstanding roundhouses in the Renfrewshire uplands may nevertheless belong to this period.

The three roundhouses to be scheduled are part of a small cluster of five. The remaining two are a hut circle around 20m south-east of the central roundhouse, obscured by a conifer plantation, and a disturbed hut circle 100m south-west of the southern roundhouse. In addition, two settlements lie within 1200m to the east and south. Further afield, a particular concentration of hut circles exists around Loch Thom and the Gryfe Reservoirs, between 2km and 6km north-west of this site. These sites provide a wide variety of comparators for the roundhouses described here, though the known distribution of roundhouses has been shaped by disturbance in the lowlands and by the activity of researchers who searched specific areas. Moreover, these unenclosed houses can be compared with a variety of homesteads, enclosures and forts that are potentially contemporary. Nearby homesteads at Knockmade Hill and Knapps may have originated in the Bronze Age, and at the hillfort at Craigmarloch, around 6km to the ENE, the palisade that pre-dated a timber-laced rampart may date to around 800 BC. Small homesteads appear to have continued in use through much of the late 1st millennium BC, at the same time as larger hillforts were appearing in the landscape. This is often interpreted as suggesting the emergence of small tribal units. The later defences at Craigmarloch and the hillfort at Walls, the largest hillfort in the former county of Renfrewshire, provide local examples. This monument thus has particular potential to contribute towards a better understanding of the character and date of dwellings, including size and form and placement in the landscape. By comparing this monument to a range of others nearby we can learn more about the evolution of settlement in the former county of Renfrewshire and more widely across Scotland, gaining a fuller picture of the development of prehistoric landscape and society in the region over time.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the study of settlement evolution in later prehistoric SW Scotland. It survives in good condition above ground and it is probable that extensive and complex archaeological remains exist below the surface relating to the construction and use of the roundhouses. The roundhouse banks and any associated pits and post-holes have high potential for the survival of buried material such as structural remains, and artefacts and ecofacts that were either buried when the roundhouses were built or relate to their use or abandonment. It has the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contacts with. Its importance is increased by its proximity to other monuments of potentially contemporary date and the capacity it has, therefore, to inform us about the relationships between monuments of different form and function. Spatial analysis of sites may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. Its loss or diminution would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape, both in the former county of Renfrewshire and in other parts of Scotland, as well as our knowledge of later prehistoric social structure, economy and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the sites as NS26NE 1 and NS26NE 11. The WoSAS SMR records the sites as WoSASPINs 5811 and 5813.

References

Alexander, D (ed) 1996, 'Prehistoric Renfrewshire: Papers in Honour of Frank Newall', Renfrewshire Local History Forum.

Newall, F 1962, 'Early open settlement in Renfrewshire', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 95 (1961-2), 159-70.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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