Scheduled Monument

Ardoch, Roman military complex 900m NNE of Ardoch BridgeSM1601

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Date Added
13/10/1936
Last Date Amended
26/03/2008
Type
Prehistoric ritual and funerary: barrow, Roman: annexe; camp; fort; road; signal station
Local Authority
Perth And Kinross
Parish
Ardoch
NGR
NN 84112 10658
Coordinates
284112, 710658

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a complex Roman military site that includes a series of superimposed forts, a substantial annexe and a series of temporary camps, as well as some prehistoric remains. These survive as a series of earthworks and cropmarks visible on oblique aerial photographs. The scheduling combines and rectifies three earlier schedulings; parts of this monument were scheduled separately in 1936, 1962 and 2004, but an insufficient area was included to cover all remains and some minor revisions are required in the light of improved knowledge.

The monument comprises several elements:

1. A series of superimposed forts survive as substantial well-preserved earthworks. The rampart stands to a height of 2m and, beyond it on the N and E sides, are five ditches, all close to their original profile. The sites of all four gates are visible, while at the N and E gates causeways are located across the ditches. The earthworks reflect three phases of occupation. The visible rampart belongs to the latest period of occupation (about AD 158-63). This fort covered 5.7 acres. Its immediate predecessor covered 7.2 acres and was longer, its N rampart being cut off from the rest of the fort by a pair of ditches in the last period of occupation. This fort was probably occupied from about AD 140 to 158. A stone barrack-block excavated in 1897-8 may date to either of these forts. The 1st-century fort, which contained timber buildings, appears to have been larger than either of its 2nd-century successors, and it is possible that the two outer ditches to the north and east formed part of the defences of this fort.

2. To the north of the fort lies a large area defended by an upstanding rampart and ditch, thought to be an annexe to the fort. These upstanding elements are visible at the northern end of the annexe.

3. Visible as a cropmark, an earlier 3.7-acre fort is located to the east of the annexe.

4. The remains of five marching camps have also been identified through a combination of field evidence and aerial photography. To the north of the fort in the annexe lies a small earlier camp whose SW corner is faintly visible in aerial photographs. Two other earlier camps, visible on aerial photographs, are located to the north-west of the fort: a 30-acre camp incorporates an earlier 13-acre camp. To the north of the annexe a section of the E defences of a 63-acre camp can be seen. A small northern annexe to this camp is visible on aerial photographs. The largest camp covers an area of around 130 acres. The defences of this camp can be seen at various points on the ground, particularly along the south-eastern and western edges, with remaining elements visible on aerial photography.

5. The remains of a small, double-ditched signal station are located near to the E rampart of the 130-acre camp, around 665m NNE of the fort.

6. A stretch of the Roman road which ran from the forts at Camelon to Bertha survives as a slight causeway running north-east for 1.2 km from the fort.

7. A curvilinear enclosure lies to the west of the westernmost marching camp and the remains of a possible barrow lie between the Roman road and the NE corner of the northernmost marching camp. These are later prehistoric monuments that pre-date the Roman military complex

The area to be scheduled is irregular in shape, to include the remains described above and an area around in which traces of associated activity may be expected to survive, as shown in red on the attached map. The area is split into four discrete polygons. The above-ground elements of all modern boundaries, electricity towers and pylons are excluded from the scheduling to allow for their maintenance.

Statement of National Importance

The monument's archaeological and historical significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The fort is a remarkably well-preserved earthwork which, together with the annex, signal station and five overlapping marching camps, retains considerable potential to provide high-quality archaeological evidence of the structure and function of Roman forts and marching camps. Three phases of occupation are reflected in the earthworks of the fort and camps, representing the major incursions by the Roman army into Scotland in the late 1st century to early 3rd century AD. We can trace evidence for occupation and abandonment on three successive occasions through the upstanding earthworks of the fort. Excavation has revealed traces of timber buildings within the central area of the fort, confirming the considerable archaeological potential of the site.

Contextual characteristics

The Roman military complex at Ardoch is unique. The fort is the best-preserved example of a Roman fort in Scotland. The earliest phase of the fort is thought to date to Agricola's 1st-century AD incursions into Scotland. It forms part of a line of forts north of the Forth-Clyde isthmus that run along the main river valleys, lying along the Roman road that runs from Camelon to Bertha. The fort lies at the S end of the Gask Ridge, the earliest known frontier of the Roman Empire. Subsequent reuse around 140-158, and later in 158-163, represent the two later incursions into this part of Scotland during the Antonine Period. A number of the temporary camps are thought to date to this period, with others dating to the later Severan Campaign in the early 3rd century AD. The combination of these remains is unique in their ability to show the mass movement of troops through the countryside during this time.

Associative characteristics

We can link the field remains at Ardoch to specific, individual military campaigns (and individual historical figures) during the governorship of Britain under Julius Agricola and the emperors Antoninus Pius and Septimius Severus. This direct association allows us to chart very accurately the process and progress of military operations between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. More generally, Ardoch has become an identifiable monument in the national consciousness because of its association in later history among scholars, antiquarians and in literature. The first published site plan was drawn up by Sir Robert Sibbald in 1695 and this marks the start of antiquarian interest, whilst in more popular literature Sir Walter Scott refers to the earthwork remains in his 1818 novel 'The Antiquary'. Significant archaeological excavations have taken place since 1896 and have yielded good quality research material in progressing ideas and theories about the Romans in Scotland.

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 the initial 1st-century AD invasion of what is now Scotland by the Romans, and subsequent incursions during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The potential is enhanced by the extensive remains, excellent levels of preservation, multiple phases of occupation and known historical period of use. Ardoch is one of the most important surviving monuments of the Roman period in Britain and has become an identifiable monument in the national consciousness, and as such has significant value as a field monument. The loss of this example would significantly affect our understanding of the Roman military presence in Scotland. It would also have far-reaching implications for our understanding of the use of forts and temporary camps within the Roman Empire.

References

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the monument complex under the following numbers: NN80NW10; NN80NW32; NN81SW 16; NN81SW 17; NN81SW 18; NN81SW 19; NN81SW 40; NN81SW 45.

References:

Breeze D 1970, 'Excavations at Ardoch 1970', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 102, 122-29.

Breeze D 1983, ARDOCH ROMAN FORT BRACO NEAR DUNBLANE. A GUIDE, Dunblane: Rotary Club of Bridge of Allan.

Christison D 1898, 'Account of the excavation of the roman station at Ardoch, Perthshire, undertaken by the society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1896-97', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 32, 399-476.

Hanson W S 1978, 'Roman campaigns north of the Forth-Clyde isthmus: the evidence of the temporary camps', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 109, 140-51.

Hanson W S 1978, 'Roman campaigns north of the Forth-Clyde isthmus: the evidence of the temporary camps', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 109, 140-51.

St Joseph J K 1970, 'THE CAMPS AT ARDOCH, STRACATHRO AND YTHAN WELLS: RECENT EXCAVATIONS', Britannia 1, 163-178.

St Joseph J K 1976, 'Air reconnaissance of Roman Scotland', 1939-1975', GLASGOW ARCHAEOL J 4, 1-29.

St Joseph J K 1977, ARDOCH, PERTHSHIRE, Unpubl. field notebook.

Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Blackhill Roman Camp, Ardoch

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/black-hill-roman-camps

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