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Rubh' a' Mharaiche, dun 450m east of

A Scheduled Monument in South Kintyre, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.3479 / 55°20'52"N

Longitude: -5.7983 / 5°47'53"W

OS Eastings: 159288

OS Northings: 612551

OS Grid: NR592125

Mapcode National: IRL WQ.KGD3

Mapcode Global: GBR DG2K.T13

Entry Name: Rubh' a' Mharaiche, dun 450m E of

Scheduled Date: 13 August 1975

Last Amended: 19 March 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3720

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: dun; Secular: shieling

Location: Southend

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: South Kintyre

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument is a dun (a defended settlement) dating probably from the Iron Age (around 500 BC to AD 500), but possibly reoccupied in the medieval period. The dun is located on a rocky promontory, halfway up a cliff face overlooking the North Channel. The rocky spur on which the dun is located is steep-sided on all but its E side, where the approach is more gradual. It is situated at around 180m above sea level on the W side of the Mull of Kintyre. The monument was first scheduled in 1975, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present scheduling rectifies this.

The dun wall is visible as a turf-covered bank of stony debris, with some internal and external facing stones visible, which encloses the top of the rock spur. The dun is almost circular in shape and broadly follows the topography of the rock outcrop. It measures about 13m internally, within a wall that is up to 4m thick at its widest. The wall may have been an external wall enclosing one or more buildings, or it may represent the remains of a roofed structure. The entrance was on the E side, where the land immediately outside the enclosing wall is less steep and would have provided the easiest route of approach. The entrance is door-checked and is 1.5m wide at the outer end and 2.4m wide at the inner. No evidence of internal structures is visible on the ground surface. To the E of the dun, another enclosing bank runs E-W across a levelled area, within which are the remains of a post-medieval shieling measuring 5m by 3m.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan and measures 80m in diameter, centred on the dun. It includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, and an additional area for the support and preservation of the monument, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling excludes the above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence that crosses the northern section of the scheduled area.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The footprint of the monument is intact and it survives in reasonably good condition. Despite the relatively slight appearance of the perimeter wall today, there is high potential for the survival of buried deposits and features beneath and beyond the wall, and within the dun interior. Future examination of the dun could provide detailed information about its date, form and construction, and investigation of the interior could enhance our understanding of how it was used and how this may have changed over time. Buried artefacts and palaeoenvironmental evidence can contribute to our understanding of how its occupants lived and worked, the extent and nature of trade and exchange, and the nature of the agricultural economy. Pollen and other environmental analyses can indicate the character of the contemporary landscape and provide evidence for how the inhabitants managed and farmed the land. The monument has the potential to contribute to our understanding of the nature of Iron Age settlement in general, and the design and development of this type of defended settlement in particular.

Contextual characteristics

This type of relatively small, defended settlement characterises much of the coastal occupation of Argyll and Atlantic Scotland in later prehistory. There are 230 duns recorded in Argyll. Those with a smaller internal diameter, of which this is an example, may have been roofed in their entirety and may have resembled large stone built roundhouses rather than small enclosed homesteads. They belong to a much broader category of later prehistoric settlement, which includes brochs, forts, crannogs, duns and hut circles. Altogether, over 500 later prehistoric settlements are known in Argyll. The dun at Rubh' a' Mharaiche, with its thick walling and near circular shape, is more reminiscent of a broch than many others. It is believed that duns represent the remains of living spaces of small groups or single families. They are largely a coastal phenomenon and tend to be located on locally high ground, along prominent coastal routes or within easy reach of the coast.

The duns of Argyll are all sited on rock outcrops and take advantage of the natural prominence and defence afforded. The location of the dun at Rubh' a' Mharaiche appears to have been selected as much for its visibility to and from the seaward approaches as for its defensive qualities. Its relationship with the other duns in the vicinity merits further research: it may have formed part of a network of similar sites in the area as they are fairly evenly spaced along the Mull of Kintyre. The Iron Age fort of Dunan is located 1.25km to the S. The dun at Rubh' a' Mharaiche has high potential to contribute to our understanding of the Iron Age occupation of Argyll and further afield.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular, the design and construction of later prehistoric, small defended settlements in western Scotland, and their place in the wider economy and society. There is good potential for well-preserved archaeological remains surviving within and immediately outside the dun. These buried remains can tell us much about the people who built and lived in the settlement and the connections they had with other groups. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the occupation of Argyll in the later prehistoric and early historic periods.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NR51SE 1.

References

Harding, D W 1997, 'Forts, duns, brochs and crannogs: Iron Age settlements in Argyll', in Ritchie, G, The archaeology of Argyll, Edinburgh, 118-140.

RCAHMS 1975, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the ancient monuments: volume 1, Kintyre, 93 (no. 234). Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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