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Latitude: 55.6329 / 55°37'58"N
Longitude: -2.558 / 2°33'28"W
OS Eastings: 364966
OS Northings: 637840
OS Grid: NT649378
Mapcode National: GBR B3L9.0L
Mapcode Global: WH8XQ.PP34
Entry Name: Henge, 270m SSW of 1 Mellerstain Mill cottages
Scheduled Date: 9 November 2022
Source: Historic Environment Scotland
Source ID: SM13763
Schedule Class: Cultural
Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: henge
County: Scottish Borders
Electoral Ward: Leaderdale and Melrose
Traditional County: Berwickshire
The monument comprises the buried remains of a henge, a form of ritual or ceremonial monument dating to the later Neolithic or early Bronze Age (around 3000-1500BC). The henge is a roughly circular feature recorded as a cropmark on oblique aerial photography. The monument also includes eight sub-rectangular features, also recorded on aerial photography, and thought to be the remains of domestic buildings, likely to post-date the construction of the henge and medieval in origin. The monument lies in relatively flat agricultural land to the west of the Eden Water, at approximately 120m above sea level.
At approximately 75m in overall diameter, the henge is defined by the remains of two crescent-shaped ditches, each approximately 3.5m wide, and these enclose an inner, sub-circular space. There are two opposing breaks between the ditches in the northern and southern halves of the monument and these are thought to be the characteristic twin entrance features of a type of henge known as a Class II henge. A group of eight small, sub-rectangular features thought to be the sunken floors of much later, domestic buildings and each approximately 5m by 3m are located in the southern half of the monument, one of which is located within the henge.
The scheduled area is a clipped circle, measuring 160m in diameter. 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 above ground remains of a transmission pole are excluded from the scheduling.
Source: Historic Environment Scotland
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 or appreciation of the past, or has the potential to do so. This henge is an important indicator of prehistoric activity in southern Scotland during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods. The monument can help us understand more about prehistoric society and the nature of ceremony, ritual and belief systems. This example contributes to our understanding of the plan, design and siting of prehistoric ritual and burial monuments in the Neolithic period. The eight sunken floor structures represent a much later settlement phase and re-use of the site. However, the henge is likely to have been an upstanding feature at this time. The structures contribute to our understanding of medieval rural settlement and the reuse of earlier monuments. The henge being reused as part of a settlement is an interesting and unusual feature of the archaeological story here.
b. The monument retains structural attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. The monument survives as the buried, cropmarked remains of an earthwork structure (a henge) as seen in oblique aerial imagery. There is therefore good potential for the survival of archaeological and ecofactual materials within the ditch fills and in the interior and exterior areas of the monument. The monument can significantly add to our understanding of the meaning and importance of ritual in the Neolithic period. The presence of two entrance feature adds to its significance, as a recognised form of henge monument – the class II henge. The presence of eight additional features thought to be the remains of domestic buildings and likely to date broadly to the medieval period adds to the overall assemblage and range of archaeological materials present.
c. This is a good example of a relatively uncommon type of prehistoric ritual monument, with under 100 examples known of in Scotland. It can therefore help us understand the chronology, development and function of these monuments. The later settlement remains are a good example of a medieval rural settlement, and a relatively uncommon survivor in a lowland agricultural context.
e. The monument has considerable research potential which could contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past - it has significant archaeological interest because of the features and components surviving in the buried soils here. It can tell us about the character, development and use of ritual sites, and the nature of prehistoric society, economy and social hierarchy in this area of Scotland and further afield. Further research and investigation of the surviving buried remains have the potential to explain the chronology of this site. Such a chronological explanation may help to inform our understanding of the development of similar prehistoric sites across Scotland. The later use of the site during the medieval period, with the addition of domestic structures seen in the remains of eight sunken house features represents a second phase of activity here.
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 curvilinear enclosure is thought to be a henge monument. Henge monuments are typically circular or sub-circular on plan defined by an external bank and internal ditch arrangement. They are sites of ritual significance and typically provide evidence of prehistoric ceremonial practices.
This example is defined by cropmarks on oblique aerial photographs and is located on relatively level agricultural land. A sub-circular ditch feature approximately 3.5m wide is broken in its northern and southern halves to form the position of two entrances. The plan of the monument is clear in the transcription of aerial imagery.
Buried archaeological monuments often have surviving features that are not visible on aerial photographs and can have well-preserved stratified layers of archaeological deposits. The ditch, entrances (and remains of causeways), interior and exterior space indicate great potential for the survival of archaeological deposits and environmental materials such as charcoal or pollen. The archaeological investigation of these types of site has confirmed that significant archaeological and environmental evidence can survive in the buried layers. Deposits and artefacts such as pottery, flints and animal bone as well as botanical remains create an important overall assemblage. Investigations have determined that these monuments can have long development sequences and multiple phases of use. The monument and this likely archaeological assemblage can therefore help us understand much about prehistoric life - the lives, contacts, beliefs and practices of the people who built and used it; the events and ceremonies that took place here; the dates and phases of its use and re-use and the wider environmental conditions that prevailed. The study of the monument's form and construction process compared with similar monuments would enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site and the class of monument in general.
Further scientific study of this site would allow us to develop a better understanding of the nature and chronology of the site, including its date of origin, the character of the remains and the overall development sequence.
There is a significant second phase of use here, seen in the survival of eight similar, roughly rectangular features which are believed to be the remains of domestic buildings, each approximately 5m by 3m in size with a sunken floor. One of these is located within the southern half of the henge while the remainder are clustered to its immediate south. A broad, medieval date is given for these features and represent a separate phase of use from the site's prehistoric origins. These features appear to respect the henge, suggesting that it was an upstanding feature at that time. The domestic reuse of the site during a later, historic period is a significant second phase to the archaeological story here and it raises questions about how the henge was incorporated into a domestic site.
Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)
The monument belongs to a group of prehistoric ceremonial monuments which have been variously classed as henges, mini henges, henge monuments and hengi-form monuments. Researchers have indicated the difficulties in these over-simplified terms. However, the general use of the term 'henge' remains helpful in distinguishing a monument whose primary purpose is for ceremony and ritual events as opposed to settlement / domestic / agricultural or similar activity.
Henges are a relatively uncommon class of monument across Scotland with approximately 90 examples recorded in the National Record of the Historic Environment.
Many are located in fertile agricultural land and survive as buried features, visible as cropmarks in aerial imagery. The known distribution of these monuments is generally in southern, eastern and northern Scotland, although further examples are known of in Argyll, Skye and Orkney. This example is part of a small regional group of four cropmarked examples, at Lewenshope, west of Selkirk (Canmore reference 147646), at Overhowden southwest of Oxton as verified by archaeological excavation (Canmore reference 54577) and at Marygold, northeast of Duns (Canmore reference 90603). The partial excavation of the Class I henge at Overhowden and the recovery of significant flint tools including arrowheads, scrapers, a spearhead, flint flakes, a polished hammer and hammer stone from the wider area points to the archaeological potential of these sites and their environs.
Researchers indicate that the positioning of these monuments is carefully planned to take advantage of natural features, routeways, views and natural resources. In this example, the henge is located close to, and north northwest of a narrow routeway along the Eden Water.
There is therefore potential to study these sites together and in a wider contemporary landscape to better understand their functions and significance to the communities that built them. The monument has the potential to enhance and broaden our understanding of prehistoric society, community as well as ritual and funerary practices.
Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)
There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to the monument's national importance.
Source: Historic Environment Scotland
Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 57172 (accessed on 26/08/2022).
Atkinson, R J C, 1952, Four new henge monuments in Scotland and Northumberland in, Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 84, 59-62
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire. An archaeological landscape. The Stationery Office. Edinburgh
Wise, A L, 2000, Late prehistoric settlement and society in southeastern Scotland. Circulated typescript Phd thesis. University of North Carolina. Chapel Hill.
Source: Historic Environment Scotland
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