Fruid unenclosed platform settlement

Fruid reservoir

View from the opposite shore

The landscape survey of Fruid Reservoir, carried out as part of the Upper Tweed Project, identified numerous archaeological features including an unenclosed platform settlement.

As this lay in the zone exposed to erosion by wave action, it was decided to excavate the structure. What was already the largest exercise undertaken by the Group in the course of the Upper Tweed Project became even larger and more significant when the excavation revealed a second settlement higher up on the valley side although still almost entirely below the high water mark.

Graph showing Fruid waterlevels

The changing water levels in Fruid Reservoir 1998 – 2005. Information courtesy of Scottish Water.

Fruid excavations

Fruid Reservoir excavations of the upper unenclosed platform

The work commenced in 2003, an exceptionally dry year, and extended over five years in the periods during the late summer and autumn when the lowered water level in the reservoir allowed access to the site.

The task of taking tools and people to the site over extremely rough ground and returning with heavy loads of soil samples was demanding to say the least.

Latterly, the logistical problem was solved, although not without risk, by the acquisition of a small boat. Weather of any sort was not allowed to impede progress of the excavation and the voyages to and from the site in a small, heavily loaded boat, in even a light wind, could be quite exciting.

Palstave Axe head

Bronze palstave from the upper platform

The final result was the nearly complete excavation of two Bronze Age roundhouses. These showed very good floor plans which included wall trenches with burnt wattle and daub, post holes for upright roof supports, doorways with porches and, in one case, a  cobbled threshold. The lower of the roundhouses had a frontal apron of built rather than dumped stone. Both houses had a drainage gully around their upper side. Internal features included a hearth and numerous pits and stake holes of unknown purpose.

Lower Platform House

Lower platform

Finds from the upper roundhouse included a large assemblage of pottery, apparently mostly of ‘bucket urn’ type, hammer and pounding stones and a saddle quern. The star find unquestionably was the bronze palstave found in the drainage gully. Interestingly, and as was the case with other platform sites, very little lithic material was recovered.

Apart from pottery, the finds from the lower of the Fruid roundhouses were sparse, as has been the case of the few other sites that have been excavated (all reported in PSAS). However, sherds from bucket urns, hammerstones and rubbers and a few chert and flint flakes were recovered. The infills of the various features were rich in charcoal and were bulk-sampled for future examination. All the material has been wet-seived  - the charcoal residues are stored at the Biggar Museums.

Illustration of Bronze Age Round Houses

Illustrated round houses

The C14 dates, one from each house so far, show that in both buildings the walls were made of hazel wattle and birch and had been destroyed by fire around the Middle Bronze Age.

Note: the actual roundhouses at Fruid were quite different from those illustrated as they would have had vertical sides of unknown height beneath a conical roof.

Unfortunately, we lack the resources necessary to carry out the full spectrum of post-excavation analyses that would provide a more complete picture of life on this settlement. However, we gratefully acknowledge the receipt of a grant from the Robert Kiln Trust that, when matched by our own contribution, will allow us to fund further analysis of the charcoal samples and another four radiocarbon dates.

An illustrated interim report is in preparation.