7.4.2 Forts

In Argyll ten sites classified as forts have undergone some excavation although only three have associated radiocarbon dates: Balloch Hill (NMRS No. NR61NE 8), Eilean an Duin (NMRS No. NM70NE 1) and Dunadd (NMRS No. NR89SW 1). Of these Balloch Hill in Kintyre has the most comprehensive series of dates for Iron Age occupation, suggesting the fort was constructed and occupied between 8th – 1st centuries BC (Peltenburg 1982). At Dunadd a small fort was constructed on the summit of a rock outcrop in the 4th/3rd century BC, although this structure might sit more easily within the dun category of monument, while the fort at Eilean an Duin would appear to have been constructed after the 3rd century BC (Lane and Campbell 1990).

The dating of other forts is based on their recovered finds, often relying on relatively exotic or imported goods. The artefacts from the forts at Dunagoil (NMRS No. NS056SE 4) and Little Dunagoil (NMRS No. NS056SE 14) have recently been re-evaluated and suggest occupation at the former from the late Bronze Age through to the 5th century AD, the later having been occupied from 3rd century BC through until perhaps the Norse period (Harding 2004a). Like Dunagoil, the finds from Dun Cul Bhuirg (NMRS No. NM22SE 3) were examined sometime after the excavation and suggested occupation between 1st century BC – 3rd century AD (Ritchie and Lane 1980). The late 19th century excavations on Dun Mac Sniachan (NMRS No. NM93NW 2) produced Iron Age metalwork dating to the early 1st millennium AD, although how these relate to the complex of structures at the site is less clear (Smith 1875). The recovery of only saddle querns from the vitrified fort of Duntroon (NMRS No. NR89NW 10) suggests this was occupied prior to the introduction of the rotary quern in the 4th – 3rd century BC, although the date of their introduction is still under debate (Christison 1905). Iron Age decorated Hebridean pottery has also been recorded from a number of fort sites in Argyll: Dun Hynish (NMRS No. NL93NE 6), Dun Nan Gall (NMRS No. NL94SW 8), Dun Balephetrish (NMRS No. NM04NW 13), all on Tiree and Dun Morbhaidh (NMRS No. NM26SW 12) on Coll. Excavations on the vitrified fort on Eilean Buidhe (NMRS No. NS07NW 4) along with those on the fort at Creag A’ Chaisteal (NMRS No. NM34NE 1) produced no datable artefacts (Maxwell 1941; Smith 1875; Betts 1959, 1964).