Scheduled Monument

Dun Mor, broch, 280m NW of Dun Mor, Vaul, TireeSM13665

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Date Added
01/03/2017
Local Authority
Argyll And Bute
Planning Authority
Argyll And Bute
Parish
Tiree
NGR
NM 4237 49268
Coordinates
104237, 749268

Description

The monument is a broch, a complex and substantial stone-built roundhouse dating to the Iron Age (between 600 BC and AD 400).  The monument is visible as a circular stone building with internal galleries and stairs. There are two sets of outworks which survive as stone and earth banks up to a maximum height of 1.6m. The broch is situated on the summit of an isolated rocky knoll which rises to height of about 23m OD, situated on the foreshore northwest of Vaul township.

The broch measures about 9.2m in diameter within a dry-stone wall about 4.5m thick, surviving up to 2.2m above ground level.  Both wall-faces, particularly the inner, are constructed of neatly-coursed blocks.  Within the thickness of the wall on all sides but the east, there is a gallery at ground floor level ranging from 0.5m to 1.1m in width and from about 0.9m to 3.0m in height.  The gallery is divided into two unequal portions by an internal staircase, situated on the north, which led upwards to the wall-head.  The entrance, is situated on the east southeast quadrant.  The broch was additionally protected by two outworks. One encloses the summit on all sides, and the other is a hornwork (a freestanding outwork with angular points or horns serving to enclose an area immediately adjacent to a site) which restricted access from the landward side of the knoll. On the edge of a natural rocky terrace beyond the outer wall on the west side of the knoll, an isolated length of walling visible probably is the remains of the revetment of a beacon-stance contemporary with the broch.

The scheduled area is irregular in shape, includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

This is a well-preserved broch with outer defences. It retains many of the characteristic features of this monument type including intramural passages, stairs chambers and outer defences. The broch was partially excavated in 1880 (Beveridge 1903) and further excavation was carried out in 1962-64 (Mackie 1974).  Although the broch has been extensively excavated, the site still has high potential to support future archaeological research. There are numerous areas that remain unexcavated where buried structural remains and archaeological deposits are likely to survive. These unexcavated areas will contain deposits rich in occupation debris, artefacts and environmental evidence that can tell us about how people lived, their trade and exchange contacts, and their social status, as well as provide information about broch architecture and construction methods.

Brochs are typically thought to date from the mid first millennium BC through to the early part of the first millennium AD.  Dun Mor falls within this period as evidenced through radio carbon dating and through the artefacts recovered during the excavations (Mackie 1974a). Excavation demonstrated a least two phases of occupation on the site preceded the erection of the broch. These earlier remains and the outerworks demonstrate that this site had a complex development sequence.

Broch towers are primarily seen as a specific specialised development of complex Atlantic roundhouses.  They were large complex structures that could have accommodated either an extended family or a small community.  While there would have been a social hierarchy within this community, the construction of these elaborate towers is often understood in terms of elite settlement.  Other interpretations have stressed their likely role as fortified or defensive sites, possibly serving a community across a wider area.  Brochs are complex structures likely to have had numerous purposes and a complex role in prehistoric society.

Contextual Characteristics

Brochs are a widespread class of monument found across northern Scotland with notable concentrations in Caithness, Sutherland, Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and the northwest Highlands.  This example is one of six brochs which form a local/ regional group on the Isle of Tiree.  The brochs on Tiree are located close to, or on, the coast.  Dun Mor, is notable among the brochs on this island because of its state of preservation and its well defined and complex external defences.

Brochs are a widespread class of monument found across northern Scotland with notable concentrations in Caithness, Sutherland, Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and the northwest Highlands.  This example is one of six brochs which form a local/ regional group on the Isle of Tiree.  The brochs on Tiree are located close to, or on, the coast.  Dun Mor, is notable among the brochs on this island because of its state of preservation and its well defined and complex external defences.

 

This monument is significant as an upstanding and the best preserved example of a broch on Tiree. Other examples including Dun Mor a' Chaolais (Scheduled Monument SM90325, Canmore ID 21485) 4.4km southeast, Dun Boraige Moire (Canmore ID 21445) 9.7km west southwest and Dun Hiader (Canmore ID 21408) 13km south-west.  There is therefore potential for comparative study on a local and national scale to better understand the function of such monuments, their interrelationship and the significance of their placing within the landscape, in particular in relation to our understanding of Iron Age social hierarchy, changing settlement patterns and systems of inheritance.

The significance of Dun Mor is further enhanced through evidence of Roman contact as shown through discovery of Roman artefacts during excavations at the site.  There is therefore the potential to better understand the nature of the relationship of this broch and Tiree with the wider Roman Empire either through direct trade or through indirect trading networks.

Dun Mor is located 400m to the west of Dun Beag, dun (scheduled monument SM13667, Canmore ID 21527) and is broadly contemporary as evidenced through pottery found on both sites. This and their proximity strongly suggests an association beyond intervisibility.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics connected with this monument.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of Iron Age society on Tiree and the function, use and development of brochs.  It is a well-preserved example of a broch with surviving elements of the structure and architectural features, with high potential for occupation deposits and associated remains. Its significance is enhanced by evidence of earlier phases of occupation on the site. The broch is a prominent feature in the landscape and adds to our understanding of the siting of such monuments.  This in turn can help our understanding of settlement patterns and social structure during the Iron Age on Tiree.  This interest is enhanced by the discovery of Roman artefacts within the broch, suggesting links either directly with the Roman Empire or indirectly through trading networks.  The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the development, use and re-use of brochs, and the nature of Iron Age society, economy and social hierarchy in the Inner Hebrides.

 

References

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 21524 (accessed on 22/11/2016).

West of Scotland Archaeology Service HER/SMR Reference 118 (accessed on 22/11/2016).

Armit, I. (1992b). The Atlantic Scottish Iron Age: five levels of chronology , in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland vol. 121, 1991. Page(s): 210

Armit, I. (2003). Towers in the North: the Brochs of Scotland. London. Page(s): 14, 30, 52, 89, 91, 133.

Beveridge, E. (1903). Coll and Tiree: their prehistoric forts and ecclesiastical antiquities with notices of ancient remains in the Treshnish Isles. Edinburgh. Page: 76.

Lane, A. (1988). English migrants in the Hebrides: "Atlantic Second B" revisited , Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 117, 1987. Page(s): 50-2, 53, 54, 55, 57, 58-9

MacKie, E W. (1974a). Dun Mor Vaul: an iron age broch on Tiree. Glasgow.

MacKie, E W. (1974b). Some new quernstones from brochs and duns , Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 104, 1971-2. Page(s): 138-9.

MacKie, E W (1997c). Dun Mor Vaul revisited: fact and theory in the reappraisal of the Scottish Atlantic Iron Age , in Ritchie, G, The archaeology of Argyll. Edinburgh.

RCAHMS (1980a). The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments volume 3: Mull, Tiree, Coll and Northern Argyll (excluding the early medieval and later monuments of Iona). Edinburgh. Page(s): 92-4, No. 167 plan, fig. 91; pl. 11-14.

Topping, P G. (1988). Typology and chronology in the later prehistoric pottery assemblages of the Western Isles , in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 117, 1987. Page(s): 70, 71, 72-5, 79, 80, 81, 82

HER/SMR Reference

  • http://www.wosas.net/wosas_site.php?id=118

About Scheduled Monuments

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Images

Dun Mor, broch, looking northwest, during daytime, on clear day with blue sky
Dun Mor, broch, view into intramural chamber beside main entrance to broch, during daytime with blue sky.

Printed: 17/10/2018 05:59