How many hillforts are there in western Scotland? Comparing aspects of the size, morphology and landscape position of later prehistoric enclosed sites in Kintyre, Skye and the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright
Wood, Simon Groves
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Hillforts in Scotland are smaller than their counterparts in southern Britain and extremely difficult to define as a site category. This is even more true in the western and northern parts of the country traditionally described as Atlantic Scotland, where the plethora of small enclosed sites forms a continuum in terms of size and morphology that cuts across the boundaries of current classifications. Using the recent definition of a hillfort by J.D Hill as a site type that is not a farmstead, this thesis attempts to analyse enclosed sites in terms of their area enclosed, morphology/architecture and particularly their landscape position to try to identify groups of sites or individual monuments that are these ‘not-farmsteads’. Three case study areas have been chosen for GIS-based analysis. Skye and Kintyre are in Atlantic Scotland. The former is a region where brochs have always been central to interpretations of the Iron Age, but it has a considerable number of larger hilltop enclosures classed as forts, and small, less regular drystone enclosures classed as duns. The forts of Kintyre in Argyll have been more studied, but their social role, as well as their relationship with and distinctiveness from the duns of Kintyre are still unknown. The final case study area is the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, part of Galloway, in Prof. Piggott’s Solway-Clyde province. Generally included with southern Scotland and the Borders in syntheses of Scottish prehistory, it has many aspects to its later prehistoric archaeology that may be considered ‘Atlantic’ in nature, such as small prominent drystone enclosures, promontory forts and sites with complex, traditionally Atlantic architecture. However, there are also hilltop enclosures classed as forts that are much larger than in the other two case study areas. GIS based analyses have been used, and combined with statistical testing to try to identify patterns in the landscape positioning of certain classes or sizes of enclosed site. Sites have been analysed in terms of their distance from the sea, altitude, topographic prominence, visibility in the landscape, and proximity to/visibility of agricultural land. These results have been interpreted to try to refine present site categorisations, and to attempt to identify those sites that are different from merely farmsteads.