Scheduled Monument

Middleton, hut circle and enclosure 540m WSW ofSM12816

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Date Added
24/02/2011
Type
Prehistoric domestic and defensive: enclosure (domestic or defensive, rather than ritual or funerary); hut circle, roundhouse
Local Authority
East Renfrewshire
Parish
Mearns
NGR
NS 49245 54260
Coordinates
249245, 654260

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a hut circle, probably of late Bronze Age or Iron Age date (first or late second millennium BC), standing within an oval enclosure. Both the hut circle and enclosure are visible as low stony banks that occupy a gentle SE-facing slope around 540m WSW of Middleton.

Situated in an area of grazing, the hut circle appears as a low, roughly circular bank, composed of turf and stone. Measuring around 6m in diameter, the spread bank of the hut circle is about 2m in thickness and still stands to a maximum height of 0.3m on its western arc. The hut circle survives best on the north and east, with the SW arc poorly defined. A possible field drain runs E-W through the hut circle and is flanked by slight banks on either side. No entrance is visible.

Defined by a low stony bank that incorporates several boulders, the outer enclosure is oval-shaped and measures approximately 29m N-S by 24m transversely. It stands up to 0.3m in height and is spread to around 2m. The outer enclosure appears as a continuous bank, partially cut into the slope, and no obvious entrance is visible. On the NE arc of the enclosure there is a possible revetted platform, creating an area of about 16m E-W by 10m transversely , that may represent a yard or further enclosure.

The area proposed for scheduling is circular in shape, to include the remains described and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Statement of National Importance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is a well-preserved later prehistoric enclosed settlement or homestead, dating probably to the first or second millennium BC. Objects found through metal detecting on the site date to around 1000 BC, suggesting occupation in the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age.

The hut circle offers excellent potential for the survival of well-preserved archaeological deposits relating to its construction, occupation and abandonment. Additionally there is good potential for associated remains, such as middens and craft activity, in the area immediately surrounding the hut circle, while the interior of the enclosure offers strong potential for evidence that can enhance our understanding of the domestic economy of the people occupying the site. As a whole, the monument offers us excellent potential to enhance our understanding of the daily lives of its inhabitants and of later prehistoric domestic settlement and architecture. Through comparing this site with similar sites elsewhere in Scotland, we can identify regional trends and traditions.

Contextual characteristics

In the late Bronze Age and earlier Iron Age, which is probably when this site was occupied, a worsening climate and rising population meant increased competition and pressure on food and land. While this site does not occupy a strong defensible position, the enclosure probably served to deter casual raiders as well as keeping wild animals out and preventing stock from wandering. Extended families probably occupied enclosed settlements such as this.

Enclosed settlements are found across Scotland and northern England, but the considerable variety in their forms and settings, and the fact that rather few have been adequately investigated, makes recognition of any distribution patterns difficult at a broad scale. The remains of later prehistoric domestic settlements tend to survive in marginal land or in landscapes where intensive cultivation has not been practiced. Across this region, the majority of upstanding hut circles, enclosures and other later prehistoric period earthworks are located in upland and moorland settings.

An enclosed settlement of similar size at Knockmade near Lochwinnoch underwent excavation in the 1960s, which revealed a pair of hut circles. The collection of finds indicated occupation in the 1st millennium BC, although the recovery of a rotary quern fragment suggests a date from the 3rd or 2nd century BC onwards.

Research suggests people organised the internal space of hut circles in specific ways. For example, the Bronze Age and Iron Age houses at Cladh Hallan on South Uist clearly showed certain activities taking place in specific parts of the house, based partly on practical considerations as well as social conventions and (possibly) spiritual or ritual beliefs.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular late Bronze Age and early Iron Age society, and the nature of later prehistoric domestic settlement and economy. The good level of preservation, the rarity of this type of monument in this area, and the survival of marked field characteristics, enhance this potential. The loss of this site would significantly impede our ability to understand domestic settlement and architecture of the later prehistoric period in this part of Scotland.

References

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the monument as NS45SE 24; West of Scotland Archaeological Service SMR as NS27SE 7587 (copies of their short reports are appended).

References

Alexander D, 1996, 'Sites and artefacts: the prehistory of Renfrewshire' in D Alexander (ed), 1996, Prehistoric Renfrewshire: Papers in Honour of Frank Newall, Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, 5-22

Livens R, 1996, 'Knockmade homestead, Lochwinnoch' in D Alexander (ed), 1996, Prehistoric Renfrewshire: Papers in Honour of Frank Newall, Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, 33-42

Pope R, 2007 'Ritual and the roundhouse: a critique of recent ideas on the use of domestic space in later British prehistory', in C Haselgrove and R Pope (eds), 2007, The Earlier Iron Age in Britain and the near Continent, Oxford: Oxbow, 204-28.

Welsh T C, 1984, 'Middleton (Mearns p), cairns and enclosures; double-walled homestead; platform and remains', Discovery Excav Scot 1984, 30

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for the designation of buildings, monuments, gardens and designed landscapes and historic battlefields. We also advise Scottish Ministers on the designation of historic marine protected areas.

Scheduling is the way that a monument or archaeological site of national importance is recognised by law through the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments of national importance using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The description and map showing the scheduled area is the legal part of the scheduling. The additional information in the scheduled monument record gives an indication of the national importance of the monument(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the monument(s). The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief and some information will not have been recorded. Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at www.historicenvironment.scot.

Find out more about scheduling and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot. You can contact us on 0131 668 8716 or at designations@hes.scot.

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