Daer update – confused, you will be

Site of stone pavement
Site 107 a stone pavement aligned East/West along the long axis.

We’ve hade a number of new, if confusing, sites from Daer over the past couple of months that have proved exciting.

One of them – site 107 consisted of a single layer of stones laid edge to edge for the most part of the 8.5m by 2.8m setting, aligned East/West on the long axis and running up a gentle slope. The stones had been gathered from the landscape and were all angular or sub angular and with rounded edges.

Two possible separate settings within the group were evident, the lower one at the East end measured 2.8m by 2.0m, forming an oval shape, and this appeared to be bounded by perimeter boulders with the central area being infilled.

The other apparently distinct setting was at the upper West end, measuring 2.2m by 1.4m, the long axis was aligned with the slope of the ground. This grouping had a mixture of stone sizes and had no obvious design in their layout.

Between the two possible settings the rest of the features appeared as a more ad hoc arrangement with spaces between some stones while others were laid edge to edge. Certainly some disturbance had taken place with the forest plough which removed some stones and damaged others along the line of the furrow which terminated on the feature; however, the disturbance was minimal.

During excavation it became apparent that the feature had been laid on prepared ground, the original soil having been removed and the stones laid directly on to the till (a clayey hill wash with small weathered stones) and lying over the orange coloured gravelly till which is normally encountered on most sites on the project.

Occasional small burnt stones lay below the main stone setting, along with a light and sporadic scatter of charcoal fragments. A slight concentration of small charcoal pieces was sampled.

No artifacts of any type were located below the stones which were mostly removed by excavation and only a few tiny pieces of lithic flakes and a pottery fragment, too small to be diagnostic were found during the cleaning of the stone setting.

The feature was located immediately below a shallow peat cover which indicated it was at least pre historic in origin. Because a soil profile had not developed over the stones it may be that the stones were laid down in the Late Bronze Age, immediately prior to peat growth in the area.

Site 110
Site 110 – possible enclosed cremation cemetery

To the SE of this site there is an apparently random but slight scatter of burnt stone and charcoal, no explanation for this is obvious. Domestic activity may have accounted for it but again no evidence in the form of artifacts was found. However, it is likely that the stone setting of Site 107 was built over a pre existing scatter of burnt material and that the burnt material there had nothing to do with whatever activity took place at Site 107.

It was obvious that the stones had been gathered from the landscape and that the larger stones must have been dragged from beyond the immediate vicinity. Selection of relatively flat stones seemed deliberate. The site preparation and selection and gathering of stones represented considerable planning and work by the builders.

It seems likely, because of their proximity and other similaritie,s that Site 107 and Site Site 92 (another stone setting which appeared to incorporate a 1m diameter ring of boulders) are associated in time and probably in function. But what that purpose was remains unknown. Burial seems unlikely as the amounts of charcoal would not represent even a token deposit of a cremation, and inhumation would probably have involved a pit of which there was no indication. It therefore seems that the stones were laid for an activity on their surface but in the absence of artifacts or any other evidence apart from the stones themselves, which form a unique site type in the Upper Clyde and Tweed valleys, this feature remains an enigma.

Site 110, initially thought of as an enclosed cremation cemetery, is proving difficult, we suspected this site was funerary due to the abundance of charcoal across the majority of the site, however further excavation it has shown that so far there have been no burials. Sampling has been done for all the charcoal that covers the entire site, this charcoal seems to post date (some) of the stones, no doubt about that.

Site 110 – Post holes
Site 110 – post holes

At this site we have found a series of post holes at one side of the site near a large boulder which sits above ground level on the site. We have a pair side by side and a triple arrangement near by, these are not burials and must have been structural, two things come to mind

  • a ring of posts around the site, or
  • (and this would be incredible) a mortuary structure, a platform for excarnation? it’s a long shot but you never know.

A stone setting and flint scraper, found up the hill from site 110 has now made for another area for excavation.

On the walk back to the access road a few weekend ago we discover another new site (site 113), cut through by the road created by the forestry, we discovered a few sherds of bronze age bucket urn. This pottery, exposed on the road and in the section cut by it, was a typical Bronze age domestic pot. This can really only mean settlement and is another first for Daer Valley. We have excavated more of this site finding more nice bits of bucket urn including rim and base sherds. It initially seems that the road was the main part of the site and we may have lost the majority of it. But only time, and yet more excavation, will tell.

Along with a couple of freshly ploughed fields around the base of the valley – which will be fieldwalked – there proves to be a lot of excavation and discovery to be completed over the summer. We will be working on through the next few months exploring the ever expanding site list which continues to astound us in its complexity and variety. We could certainly do with the additional support, so if you would like to explore the pre-history of the Daer Valley get in touch using our contact form. We’d love to hear from you.