Upland Survey

Surveying a burnt mound

Surveying a burnt mound

The upland surveys undertaken by the Group and by the writer in a commercial capacity for pre-aforestation surveys, principally in The Clyde and Tweed Valleys but also in numerous other locations of the Southern Uplands of Scotland, has produced a large corpus of data from previously un-recorded sites. This breaks into two main categories or periods; the Bronze Age and the Post Medieval.

The Bronze Age is represented by hundreds of small cairns and also burnt mounds, the latter being recorded for the first time in most areas of BAG’s activity. Enclosed cremation cemeteries have figured prominently as have a considerable number of unenclosed platform settlements. By filling in the gaps left by earlier surveys, in most cases those by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, it is now possible to make a much better assessment of settlement and land use in the Bronze Age.

Surveying in the snow

Surveying in the snow

The apparent absence of anything between the Bronze Age and the Post Medieval is both striking and perplexing; generally visible features in most of the uplands do not emerge until around 1600 AD. The so called Dark Ages have always been notoriously difficult to find but where is the medieval? Even in the course of numerous excavations on Post Medieval sites in the Clyde and Tweed Valleys, nothing much before 1600 is ever found. 17th century and later settlements are easy to detect since they have left a legacy of building and later on, enclosing for animal husbandry and arable fields.

Perhaps the most fascinating sites to have been discovered have been the Wildshaw Burn Stone Circle and Blackmount Enclosed Cremation Cemetery. At each of these sites it is possible to witness the summer and winter solstices with both sunrise and sunset alignments across the sites to prominent horizon features. The Group lack the astronomical knowledge to present the facts of these incredible sites, although all the data has been recorded on both film and video.

In both Lanarkshire and Peeblesshire there are small patches of ground still to be surveyed and when these are done a comprehensive overview of much of the past on this landscape will be possible.

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