Temporary Camps

As a major corridor through which the Roman army manoeuvred over multiple campaigns, Perth and Kinross has an impressive record of temporary camps (around 10% of Scotland’s known examples). The majority have been interpreted as marching camps; as such they are a valuable resource, which documents the movement of Roman armies on campaign. Others, such as the two camps close to the legionary fortress at Inchtuthil, are more likely to reflect temporary accommodation for those involved in the construction of the more permanent fortifications (MPK5481; Jones 2011, 226–8). In all cases the enclosures feature a bank and ditch with rounded corners and entrances, some of which still survive as upstanding monuments such as north of Ardoch. In the majority of cases, however, owing to their predominant position in arable land in the lowland straths, the camps have been recorded only through cropmarks. The form of the entrance breaks (or gate types) and the size of the enclosed area are the main morphological variables between the camps. Distinctive features such as Stracathro-type gates have been used to group camps into sequences or series and to postulate dates of construction. However, Jones’ extensive work assessing camps across Scotland cautions against using morphology without corroborating dating evidence (Jones 2009, 25; 2011).

Distribution map of Roman camps in Perth and Kinross, by Andrew Tibbs
OS data © Crown copyright, Database Right (2022), and OS Terrain 5, OS Terrain 50, OS OpenMap – Local & Strategi right (2022) (CC BY-NC-SA)

To date, the excavation of such camps has been minimal and small scale, although more examples are being investigated as part of developer-funded work (eg Longforgan, MPK4799). In some cases where excavation has been undertaken, such as at Dalginross (MPK5314) near Comrie, multiple phases of activity have been identified indicating that the chronology, use and reuse of temporary camps is complicated. The dating of temporary or marching camps, where artefacts have not been uncovered, tends to come from typological analysis of sites (see for example St Joseph 1969, 113–9; Hanson and Maxwell 1986; Jones 2011, 99–108), but the established sequences are complex and at times contradictory. The significance and complexity of these structures has been illustrated at Kintore, Aberdeenshire, which has also highlighted the need for larger area excavation at these sites (Cook and Dunbar 2008). 

Ardoch temporary fort ©️ Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust