5.3 Building Materials

Wherever possible, building materials (turf, timber and stone) were obtained locally, though direct evidence is often lacking. The use of local timber is strongly implied by the use of less suitable structural timbers, such as alder, as attested at Elginhaugh, and at Vindolanda and Carlisle in N England (Hanson 2009b).

Probable stone quarries are occasionally attested, as at Inchtuthil where a well-metalled road leads to a likely quarry site on Gourdie Hill (Pitts and St Joseph 1985, 47, 255-6). The nearby temporary camp at Steed Stalls (a.k.a. Gourdie), long thought to be a quarry, is more likely to relate to lime-burning for mortar; it contains several upstanding and cropmark ‘stalls’, probably large kilns (RCAHMS 1994, 83).

Ceramic building materials (brick and tile) are attested at many sites; Bailey’s (2004) work indicates patterns of local production and distribution (see 5.6.1 below), while scientific analysis by Gillings (forthcoming) supports evidence for local production.

Lead was important, for instance for water pipes. Three lead pigs are known from Scotland (from Bertha, Kirkintilloch and Strageath). Analysis of the latter, the only modern find, indicates extraction of the lead from N England or just possibly S Scotland (Frere and Wilkes 1989, 174-5; Hunter 2006b, 85; see 5.6.2 below).

The evidence from Inchtuthil formed the basis for a stimulating exercise in logistics, working out possible resource implications for building the fortress (Shirley 2000, 2001; cf Britannia 33 (2002), 401-2). This must be treated with some caution, as there are caveats over the assumptions, but such exercises are valuable in providing estimates and models for further analysis.

No survey has yet been undertaken of a potential quarry site nor an enumeration and description of all known sites. A small-scale excavation at Steed Stalls would usefully test the hypothesis that it contains lime kilns.

Specialist geological study of building and sculptured stones would be of great value in understanding sources and distribution systems.

Any opportunities to investigate surviving timbers from waterlogged sites should be taken up (c.f. recent work at Carlisle).

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