10 September 2012

Chris and I gave our first presentation of the results (so far) of the Galloway Picts Project, at the DGNHAS 150th Anniversary Conference in Dumfries at the weekend. Over a hundred people attended this conference, which covered a wide range of topics, including the early history of this antiquarian society, recent research into Iron Age and Roman sites in Dumfries and Galloway, the discovery of the Triops cancriformis at Caerlaverock Nature Reserve and the contemporary cultural context of the founding of the society in 1862. These were all extremely interesting talks and we hope our own presentation matched these in showing what an interesting part of Scotland Dumfries and Galloway is.

Some of the results we were able to divulge at the conference, for the first time, were the radiocarbon dates taken from eight separate pieces of charcoal and one single fragment of wood from a variety of contexts (or layers) from Trusty’s Hill. We now have a calibrated radiocarbon date of 536-646 AD from the occupation soil in Trench 4 that abutted the vitrified rampart along the east side of the summit of the fort, which is matched by a date of 533-643 AD from occupation soil in Trench 5 that abutted the rampart on the western side of the fort summit. Calibrated dates from a construction layer (of material swept up and laid across the rock-cut foundation trench) of the rampart include 529-623 AD from the east side and 513-378 BC from the west side. Another Iron Age date of 515-381 BC was recovered from the base of a structural post-hole within the rampart at the west side though a lens of material from the core of the rampart above this yielded a date of 536-646 AD. The earliest stratigraphic occupation deposit in the corner of Trench 4 provided a radiocarbon date of 411-543 AD, while the backfill soil from Charles Thomas’ excavation of Trench 4 yielded a date of 551-646 AD. Meanwhile a piece of wood taken from the base fill of the rock-cut basin at the opposite side of the entranceway to the Pictish carvings was radiocarbon dated to 661-773 AD.

In summary, the radiocarbon dating indicates initial occupation of Trusty’s Hill around 400 BC. We don’t think the vitrified rampart dates to this time however, as an early sixth-early seventh century date was also obtained from this layer and another early sixth – mid seventh century AD date was taken from the vitrified rampart itself. Rather, we think the Iron Age material found within the foundation trench of the vitrified rampart is residual, swept up from the interior of the site and laid out as a bed of material for the timber frame and stone core of the rampart. The Iron Age occupation of Trusty’s Hill appears to have been followed by a hiatus before the hill was re-occupied in the early fifth to early sixth century AD and fortified with a timber-laced rampart around its summit between the early sixth and mid seventh century AD. The rampart was probably destroyed around the end of this period in the early-mid seventh century AD. Interestingly, this broadly accords with Charles Thomas’ interpretation of two phases of occupation; that of an original Iron Age site re-occupied in the fifth/sixth century AD. However, the radiocarbon date taken from the base of the rock-cut well at the entranceway indicates that this feature was still open and presumably used in the later seventh – eighth centuries AD, after the fort had been destroyed, which suggests that it was of sufficient importance to merit continued use long after occupation of the hillfort had ended.

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