MHG62039 - BA agriculture - NE of Cnoc Freiceadain, Caithness


Evidence for agriculture in the early-middle Bronze Age was found to the northeast of Cnoc Freiceadain, Caithness.

Type and Period (1)

  • ARD MARKS (Early Bronze Age to Middle Bronze Age - 2400 BC? to 1251 BC?)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Evidence for agriculture in the early -middle Bronze Age was found to the northeast of Cnoc Freiceadain, Caithness.

Evidence for agriculture in the early -middle Bronze Age was found to the northeast of Cnoc Freiceadain, Caithness, during trial trenching and excavation in 2015 by AOC Archaeology Group and members of the Castletown Heritage Society with local volunteers. The fieldwork was undertaken as part of the 'Hidden Bronze Age Landscape of Caithness Project' which followed a LiDAR survey carried out in 2011 as part of the mitigation for the visual impact on the archaeological landscape associated with the proposed Baillie Hill windfarm, Caithness (see <1>). Three features identified at Skaill in the 2011 survey data proved to be hut circles. In Trench 2 over the southernmost of the hut circles (see MHG61749) two ard marks cut into the natural were recorded. A radiocarbon date obtained from bank material gave a date range of 1448-1292calBC (Calibrated to 2σ). Trench 3 was excavated to the east of the hut circle in an area devoid of standing archaeology to look for additional evidence but nothing was found. Two quadrants of the middle of the three hut circles (see MHG61703) were also subject to excavation. The possible ard marks were found below the burnt mound material used to construct the core of the bank of the hut circle. Radiocarbon dating of two samples of this material gave dates of 2341-2138calBC and 2455-2146calBC (Calibrated to 2σ). Although only small areas were uncovered, the scoring of the till suggests the use of an ard to break the soil. Ard marks have been encountered on numerous excavations in Caithness, often visible in the natural subsoil beneath archaeological deposits. Ard cultivation traces at Cnoc Stanger were extensive, but the short 'pull' lengths recorded at that site were taken by the excavator as evidence that the ard that created them was pulled by human, rather than animal traction. Though only exposed in small areas at Skaill, the ard marks here were similarly short and interrupted, and might follow a similar interpretation. Underlying the burnt mound 'bank' at Skaill, some of the ard marks are unlikely to post-date the mid to late third millennium BC, but those outside the structures could be related to agriculture associated with the settlement. Soil survey and analysis showed that the investment in the improvement of soils through tillage and manuring that was apparently well underway at Skaill before the later third millennium BC may have meant that the site was valuable farm land, and although tilled ground associated with settlements may have been fairly limited in extent, the duration of use of farmed parcels of land may have been considerable. <1> <2>

Sources/Archives (2)



Grid reference Centred ND 0177 6601 (40m by 40m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND06NW
Civil Parish THURSO
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (5)

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