This blog is the public side of my MA thesis, which will look at various themes in the landscape surrounding the Iron Age settlement of Castle Law, Forgandenny, Perthshire. Castle Law occupies a prominence overlooking Strathearn ideally positioned to control movement between the valley and the high land around the fort, as well as routes leading over the Ochils to the south. Several prehistoric locales are recorded on the local Historic Environment Record, including several Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age cairns.
Castle Law was excavated in 1892 by Weston Bell, and published in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland the following year. When he descibed the context of the site in relation to the archaeological landscape, Weston Bell drew links between other hillforts and sites occupied by the Roman Army:
‘This fort from all appearance has not been of large area, but judging from the amount of ruin, must have been of great strength. It has outworks and a lake with mound at the west side. Then there are the remains of forts on Moncrieff Hill, Dunbarnie, Dunbules, Rossie Law in the Parish of Dunning; and 1½ miles from Castle Law to the south west on Ardargie Hill, there are traces of a so called “Roman” camp, but the plough has rendered them difficult to determine. On the South side of the Earn we have an ancient causeway at Gask; and a supposed Roman outpost at Mayfield’ (Weston Bell (1892) ‘Notes on the British Fort on Castle Law, Forgandenny’ in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 27,15).
Since this is a landscape archaeology project, it will rely on a series of surveying techniques to record and analyse the patterns of prehistoric land use. The project will mostly rely on walk over survey using small-scale Ordnance Survey maps to provide a template, on top of which upstanding archaeology will be plotted. In addition to working in the field, I intend to use existing aerial photograph collections available from RCAHMS and CUCAP, in order to examine land use over the last 60 years and locate traces of prehistoric and early medieval archaeology destroyed during that time. Historic maps also form an important source of data for this project: Ordnance Survey maps provide an accurate record of settlements and field boundaries during the last 150 years. Earlier maps such as General Roy’s Military Survey (1750) provide a (rough) record of land use, roads, crossings and small settlements on low and high ground.
Combining these pieces of data should help to construct a more thorough understanding of the prehistoric landscape around Castle Law, as well as consequent developments in the Early Medieval landscape.