MHG9096 - Enclosure - 350m SE of Gilchrist


Excavation of five evaluation trenches, each of which targeted separate cropmark features which were visible on aerial photographs. In the centre of a ring ditch (Trench 3) was an area of intense burning.

Type and Period (3)

  • CIRCULAR ENCLOSURE (Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age - 772 BC to 486 BC)
  • PIT (Middle Bronze Age to Late Bronze Age - 1392 BC to 933 BC) + Sci.Date
  • RING DITCH (Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age - 772 BC to 486 BC) + Sci.Date

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Air photography has revealed the crop-mark of what is probably a circular enclosure 350 m SE of Gilchrist farmhouse; it measures about 20 m in diameter within a narrow ditch.
RCAHMS 1979; Visible on RCAHMS air photographs RC 1857-60, flown 1978

Further aerial photographs were taken of this enclosure. There appears to be a large pit to the NW of it (see Archive for details.)
Information from J Harden 1989.

A programme of archaeological evaluation and recording was undertaken at the site of suggested medieval activity at Balvattie, Tarradale, by a team of volunteers and members of the public as part of the ongoing Tarradale Through Time research project. The fieldwork and preliminary post excavation tasks were supervised by the Highland Archaeology Services Limited and on behalf of Tarradale Through Time.

Fieldwork involved the excavation of five evaluation trenches, each of which targeted separate cropmark features visible on aerial photographs. The trenches confirmed the presence of buried archaeological deposits consistent with aerial photographs at some locations although two of the five cuttings were archaeologically sterile. Excavated features included a recut ditch and a series of associated post-pits, postholes, a linear ditch and a spread hearth deposit in Trench 3, the former consistent with a large circular enclosure indicated by a well-defined lush-mark on aerial photographs. Trench 4 was opened over the location of a large subcircular lush mark and revealed a large pit up to 1.5m deep of unknown function. The pit contained a sequence of well-defined fill deposits which indicate that it may have been open for an extended period and filled with differing source material in a series of discreet episodes. Trench 6 revealed part of a deep straight-sided ditch with a squared terminal, which had a deep posthole directly adjacent to the terminal. The features recorded in Trench 3 produced just a few sherds of stratified later prehistoric pottery although most other features identified in the trenches were aceramic. The ditch recorded in Trench 6 also failed to produce any dating evidence. Deposits containing charred plant material were identified in Trenches 3 and 4. Evaluation Trenches 5 and 8 failed to locate any significant archaeological deposits.

The primary fieldwork evidence indicates that most of the archaeological activity identified on the site is likely to be of later prehistoric origin and associated with a series of circular or rectilinear enclosures, most likely agricultural, which appear to have been located some distance from the focus of associated occupation. Evidence for later, medieval and post medieval, activity on the site was restricted to a small collection of pottery sherds. No substantial evidence for intensive medieval activity was identified. <1>

Excavations in 2018 revealed a complex landscape of ditches and pits that may date from differing periods. In the centre of a ring ditch (Trench 3) was an area of intense burning. Small pieces of hazelnut at the bottom of two pits gave radiocarbon dates of 1121 - 933 BC and 1392 - 1132 BC. A radiocarbon date for charcoal from the intense area of burning near the centre of the central enclosure, was later, 772 - 486 BC, putting it right at the end of the Bronze Age and into the early Iron Age.

The few pieces of pottery found in some of the smaller pits are also consistant with the later Bronze Age but otherwise there was an almost dearth of artifacts. There was no indication of any permanent settlement on the site in the form of huts and houses, and the land may have been used as a gathering place for people and animals associated with seasonal activities, accompanied by feasting and rutual depositing in pits.

Cut into the highest layers of fill of a large pit (Trench 4) was evidence of a fire pit containing a deposit of charred hulled barley, radio carbondated tp AD 777 - 985. i.e. towards the end of the Pictish period, and may represent continued occupation or reoccupation of the area. <2>

Sources/Archives (15)



Grid reference Centred NH 5422 4901 (48m by 48m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH54NW
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY
Civil Parish URRAY

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (1)

External Links (2)

Comments and Feedback

Do you have any more information about this record? Please feel free to comment with information and photographs, or ask any questions, using the "Disqus" tool below. Comments are moderated, and we aim to respond/publish as soon as possible.