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On the outskirts of Rosemarkie, a coastal village on the Black Isle near Inverness, a new housing development has uncovered the remains of a much older settlement. 

The settlement contained six roundhouses, one within a substantial palisade enclosure, extensive groups of prehistoric pits, and the surprise discovery of a Bronze Age hoard.


Archaeological work at Rosemarkie was commissioned by Pat Munro Homes.

The Excavation

The excavations at Rosemarkie took almost a year to uncover and record the extensive spread of prehistoric settlement. While the bulk of the overlying soil was removed by a machine excavator, the entirety of the approximately 740 features were excavated by hand by a team of archaeologists. Recording of the site included written records, collection of soil samples, GPS survey, hand drawings, photographs, and a drone survey. The results presented here are preliminary only; the post-excavation analyses are still ongoing and will provide a much more detailed understanding of the site once complete.

Digging Deep

The archaeological remains at Rosemarkie lay near the base of Hill of Fortrose and were found buried under up to 2.6m of soil. Within this deep material were several distinct layers, one of which may be evidence of a fairly dramatic landslide, while others suggest gradual periods of natural soil accumulation. Most of the prehistoric remains survived below the landslide level, where there was also potential evidence for slash-and-burn, a prehistoric woodland clearance technique that may have had a part to play in causing the landslide.

Palisade Enclosure

Roundhouse 1 stood within a large palisade enclosure. The palisade was constructed with pairs of timber posts, which would have supported a substantial boundary fence. Such a fence may have had a defensive function, or it may have served to mark this area as special, limiting access to only certain people. Controlled access would have been important if this was a higher status building, either because of the elite standing of those who lived there or the specialist activities that were taking place. As well as the roundhouse, there were likely several other small post-built structures within the palisade. Finds of three possible metal-working mould fragments in the area may hint at the specialist activity taking place.

Prehistoric Recycling

There were six definite roundhouses identified at the site, and other potential, rectangular structures, all of which appear to have been post-built buildings. The evidence for these buildings survived mostly as negative features, such as postholes and ditches, which indicate where structural elements were dug into the ground. Generally, very little of the original construction materials survived as most would have been of an organic nature which has since degraded or ploughed away by subsequent farming. Despite that, the packing stones used to support the posts were still present in many of the buildings. Interestingly, many these stones were tools, such as quernstones, rubbing stones, and hammerstones, which had been reused within the construction of the house. Often the tools were broken, and it is not known if this was simply a form of prehistoric recycling, or if the practice had a deeper symbolic meaning.

A Place for the Living and the Dead

Although most of the discoveries at Rosemarkie were domestic in nature, representing the daily living of the people at the time, a single cist burial was identified in the area. The burial had been heavily disturbed but would have formed a sub-rectangular pit lined by rounded natural stones and capped by a large, flat slab. Within the pit were the remains of burnt bone, ceramic fragments, and a flint core. This is typical of many Bronze Age cist burials, where cremated remains would have been deposited within a ceramic urn along with small grave goods, such as flint objects.

A Surprise Discovery

After several months of excavating on the site, the remains of a Bronze Age Hoard were uncovered within an area of pits and postholes forming a small, fenced structure.

From the surface, several bronze armlets could be seen within the circle of a larger ringed necklet. Organic material around the armlets appeared to be the remains of basket or woven bag.

Due to the delicate nature of the discovery, the conservation team were called in on-site to block-lift the object and transport it safely to the lab, where initial micro-excavations were undertaken in a conrolled environment. The post-excavation work from this important, rare site will provide valuable information to understand a highly significant archaeological landscape.

Further information

Williamson, S. 2021. Greenside Farm, Courthill Road, Rosemarkie: Archaeological Watching Brief and Excavation Data Structure Report.Unpublished AOC Archaeology report.

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