7.3.2 Palisaded Enclosures

A number of palisaded enclosures have been identified in the Highlands, mainly from aerial photographs, but there is little dating evidence nor a clear understanding of what the palisades are enclosing. These enclosures would have had one or more rows of closely spaced vertical timbers embedded into a narrow foundation trench (ScARF Iron Age section 6.5, 6.6). Highland sites have a distinct eastern distribution, excluding Caithness, which is a result of being situated mainly on agricultural land where crop marks are visible. Nevertheless, occasional evidence survives in some upland settings, for example Sithean Mor Dail A’Chaoruinn, Badenoch and Strathspey (MHG4560). Only three sites have been dated (Table 7.3). An enclosure at Brackla, Nairn had a sherd of Roman Samian pottery (Terra Sigillata) suggesting occupation in the early centuries AD (MHG7309). While a palisaded enclosure was identified at Culduthel in Inverness, the only date from it relates to the ditch fill. It provided a Chalcolithic date which when compared to dates elsewhere suggests the sample was probably residual. The enclosure had no occupation debris, and is thought perhaps to have been a stock enclosure (Hatherley and Murray 2021). Elsewhere in Scotland palisaded enclosures date from the Neolithic to medieval periods, with various functions (Hatherley and Murray 2021). As a result, further investigation with good dating is needed to determine regionality, dating and use.

SiteAreaDatingsLabReference CommentsSource
LairgS395–90 BC;
465–30 BC;
470–135 BC; 590–90 BC; 750–265 BC
Trial trenches. V-shaped ditch surrounding an area 17m in diameter internally. No trace of internal buildings were found, but quantities of charcoal Possible shale bracelet fragment.MHG20136; McCullagh and Tipping 1998, 69-72
Bellfield, North KessockERAwaiting resultsContained two pits, but unclear if they relate to enclosureMurray 2012, 23; Hatherley and Murray 2021
Seafield WestI110 BC–AD 140;
50 BC–AD 220;
170 BC–AD 90  
Large ditch 24m in diameter with two rings of post holes and pits; possibly multiperiod. Several possible interpretations, but excavators favoured a smaller roundhouse structure inside palisade.MHG3058; Cressey and Anderson 2011
Table 7.3 Highland palisaded enclosures with dating evidence
All dates cal at 95.4% probability. For full details of dates, see Datasheet 2.1

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