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Dun Fhinn, dun

A Scheduled Monument in Kintyre and the Islands, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.6931 / 55°41'35"N

Longitude: -6.0711 / 6°4'15"W

OS Eastings: 144256

OS Northings: 651915

OS Grid: NR442519

Mapcode National: GBR CFDN.MYF

Mapcode Global: WGZJM.Q56F

Entry Name: Dun Fhinn, dun

Scheduled Date: 7 December 1978

Last Amended: 19 March 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4016

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: dun

Location: Kildalton

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Kintyre and the Islands

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument is a prehistoric defended settlement, likely to date from the Iron Age (between 500 BC and AD 500). The dun comprises a drystone wall enclosing an oval area which measures 18m NE-SW by 11m transversely. The dun stands on a rocky knoll, which rises 15m above the surrounding rough moorland, at the N end of a prominent ridge running NE-SW. It is located in the SE of Islay, about 2.2km inland from the coast at Aros Bay, and 1.6km NW of Kintour. It overlooks lower ground to the N and S, and has extensive views out to sea to the E. The monument was first scheduled in 1978, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The dun wall can be traced for its entire perimeter, although its form is obscured in places by tumbled stones. It varies in thickness from 3.5m on the NE side to 2m on the WSW, and large inner and outer facing-stones remain in position intermittently, indicating that this was originally a massive wall. Wall debris covers the SE flank of the knoll in a scree-like spread. At the SW end, it appears that the wall divided, with an inner section following the margin of the summit to complete the oval dun wall, and an outer section branching down towards the foot of the knoll to form a curving outwork. The entrance to the dun was on the SW side. The entrance through the outwork is 2.7m in average width; a short length of each side-wall of the passage is exposed. The entrance through the inner (main) wall is obscured by debris. Within the dun interior is a later sub-circular enclosure formed by a stone wall up to 1.2m wide enclosing an area 6m NE-SW by 5m transversely; the entrance faces NE. There are also the remains of a possible hut, visible as a sub-circular enclosure of drystone walling enclosing an area 6m by 5m. Most of the outer wall face of the dun is intact on the NW side, where it stands up to 1m high. Fragments of the inner facing are also visible here, giving a wall width of 2.7m at this point. Elsewhere only the rubble core remains. There are the remains of a cell at the dun entrance in the SW, visible as a sub-circular chamber. There are traces of further outworks at the foot of the hill to the SE and SW.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan and includes the remains described above, an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, and adjoining land essential for the monument's support and preservation, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Much of the monument is intact and in good condition, although the walls are much reduced in height and in places the form of the dun is obscured by tumble. The overall footprint of the monument and several features, such as the entranceway, cell and a possible hut, are clearly visible. In places, the outer face of the dun wall is visible, and there are clear traces of outworks at the foot of the hill. The monument has not been disturbed by robbing or excavation and a significant amount of structural material survives, which could provide important information about the form and construction of duns. There is also high potential for the survival of buried deposits and other features beneath and beyond the walls and within the dun interior. Evidence for later phases, indicated by the sub-circular structure within the interior, suggest the dun may have been used over a long period of time, and was perhaps re-occupied at a later date.

Future examination of the dun could provide detailed information about its date, form and construction, and investigation of the interior could contribute to 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 people 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 and the design and development of these small defended enclosures.

Contextual characteristics

This type of relatively small, defended settlement characterises much of the coastal occupation of Argyll and Atlantic Scotland in later prehistory. Islay is particularly abundant in duns, with 49 known examples, mostly clustered on the Rinns and in the S and SE of the island. 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. It is believed that duns represent the remains of the 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, as in this case.

Many of the duns in Islay, including this example, occupy land adjacent to areas of cultivable ground or pasture, suggesting cultivation was a greater priority than security. Dun Fhinn is in a prominent location, at the N end of a ridge which rises some 15m above the surrounding ground, but it has little natural defensive strength. It commands extensive views in all directions except to the NW, where it is overlooked by higher ground; in particular, it has excellent views out to sea, towards Kintyre. Its location was no doubt of significance for its builders: it is a good example of how the natural topography was exploited for defensive settlements, and demonstrates the importance of visibility when deciding where to position such monuments.

The surrounding area is rich in later prehistoric settlement remains. Indeed the SE coast of Islay seems to have been particularly significant for Iron Age occupation. There are a number of broadly contemporary defensive settlements in the area. Two forts lie approximately 1.4km and 1.5km to the SW on rocky outcrops that form part of the same ridge; another fort is situated 1.75km to the SE; and there are two further duns to the S. There are also a number of hut circles, approximately 395m to the SE of the dun, and throughout the surrounding moorland there are traces of field systems, some of which may have early origins. A comparative study of these monuments and their wider landscape context could enhance our understanding of site location and settlement patterns in during later prehistory in Islay and further afield.

Associative characteristics

The dun is noted as a monument and named 'Dun Fhinn' on the first edition Ordnance Survey map.

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 NR45SW 2. West of Scotland Archaeology Service records the site as WOSASPIN 2684.

References

Celoria F 1959, Preliminary handbook to Islay, No. 7/43.

Lamont W 1959, 'From the Islay Archaeological Survey Group', Discovery Excav Scot, 13.

Newall F 1964, 'Dun Fhinn', Discovery Excav Scot, 12.

RCAHMS 1984a, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments volume 5: Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay, Edinburgh, 114-15, No. 211.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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