Sheriffside 2014

Sheriffside – An Iron-Age Hillfort on the Edge of Empire (7-18th July 2014)

Help uncover the story!

Destroyed in antiquity and appearing on no maps, Sheriffside was only rediscovered in 1981. Aerial photography picked up the parch marks of a large double ditched enclosure lying under pasture land and measuring over 150m in diameter.

Trench 2 - with palisade posts running across the trench at an angle

Trench 2 – with palisade posts running across the trench at an angle

Initial trial excavations in 2010 and 2012 showed that the site was a complex hillfort, containing a series of ditches, banks and palisades spanning nearly 1000 years between 600BC and 400AD. Its position on the end of a ridge near the village of Gifford, 20 miles to the east of Edinburgh, offers a 360 degree panorama taking in landmarks such as the Lammermuir hills to the south, Pentland hills to the west and the Kingdom of Fife to the north.

Massive ditch

The function of this site will have changed over a millennium of activity and we will attempt to understand this by investigating the chronology of construction and destruction that took place. Keyhole excavation in 2012 uncovered a massive 9 metre wide and 3 metre deep ditch which was constructed after 360AD.

In AD 367 Roman Britain was attacked simultaneously by the Picts, Gaels, Irish and Saxons. The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus called it ‘barbarica conspiratio’ – a ‘barbarian conspiracy’.

The ‘Picts’ War’ saw damaging attacks on Hadrian’s Wall and Marcellinus states that the Picts were ‘roving at large and causing great devastation’.

Therefore, it is entirely possible that the massive ditch at Sheriffside was built for defence against a threat that relates to the collapse of the Roman presence in Britain. The area which is now East Lothian lies between the Firth of Forth and Hadrian’s Wall and would have been extremely vulnerable to attack by the northern tribes.

Read more detailed article: Manning the ramparts: a hillfort on the edge of Empire

Always room for more - but this year the trench is going to be 20m square!

Always room for more – but this year the trench is going to be 20m square!

 

Read our handy Guide to Rampart Scotland projects

Join us and help uncover Sheriffside’s story.

Students and volunteers are welcome to join us for our largest season of research at this site.

Aims for 2014:

We hope to uncover a 20m x 20m section of the site, taking in ditches, banks and parts of the interior to gather both stratigraphic data and charcoal for c14 dating analysis.

Sign up:

For more information, or to book your place contact the Project co-director, Murray Cook at: info@rampartscotland.co.uk