7.3.5 Buildings

The roundhouse continues to dominate the building tradition in the Iron Age, but with variations: drystone brochs; Simple Atlantic roundhouses (sARs) and Complex Atlantic Roundhouses (cARs); timber; stone or mixed material roundhouses; dun buildings either alone or in clusters and some on islands. The Highlands, particularly the upland areas, are dotted with roundhouses. The work of the Strath Suardal (Wildgoose 2016) and WeDigs (Welti and Wildgoose nd) projects, show that the tradition is long lived, being popular from Neolithic through to medieval times, thus requiring good dating to interpret evidence. Functions are likely to have varied, and again, excavation is the only way to provide any interpretation of function. A way to address interpretation of non-domestic use, including a list of criteria, has been proposed by Romankiewicz (2018). Good stratigraphy and dating are also crucial in order to determine if there was continuous use or episodic occupation.

A roof span of 20 metres is considered the maximum roof span feasible in the Iron Age, with any larger diameters, even in structures displaying similarities in wall construction with roofed structures, generally considered to be unroofed enclosures (Harding 1984, 219) See Romankiewicz (2011) for a catalogue of roof reconstructions for diameters between 15–20m. The roof diameter is a key defining element for all round buildings regardless of construction materials, as larger examples must have been enclosures.

Buildings constructed on hilltop settings would have had a visual impact and dominated the landscape, as reconstruction drawings based on excavations in Easter Ross at Easter and Wester Rariche, Tarrel Dun and Morangie Dun, Tarlogie, show (www.socantscot.org/research-project/bringing-landscapes-alive-the-atlantic-roundhouses-of-the-tarbat-peninsula/).

Reconstruction of the Atlantic roundhouse and its enclosures at Easter Rarichie. In the background the monumental turf roundhouse at Wester Rarichie is beginning to disintegrate. ©Alice Watterson
Reconstruction drawing of the Atlantic roundhouse at Tarrel. ©Alice Watterson Roundhouses Complex Atlantic Roundhouses, Brochs and Galleried Duns Non-Circular Buildings Building Interiors and Exteriors

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