Issue: The Cleaven Dyke and Littleour: Monuments in the Neolithic of Tayside

Publication Type
13_1998_BARCLAY_Cleaven_Dyke.pdf (89 MB): Download (79 MB): Download
Author Gordon J Barclay
Gordon S Maxwell
Ciara M Clarke
Michael Cressey
Alan Duffy
David Hogg
Timothy G Holden
Ruth Pelling
Editor Alexandra N Shepherd
Publisher Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Year of Publication 1998
Volume 13
Number of Pages: 145
ISBN 090390313X
Note Date Of Issue From: 1998
Source ADS Archive
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1 - 12
The first part of this chapter is concerned with Neolithic and Early Bronze Age activity in Tayside. Most work has concentrated on chambered tombs and the distribution of artefacts due to the absence of easily identifiable settlement evidence. Aerial photography has identified at least 16 cursus monuments in addition to many henges or hengiform enclosures. The second part of the chapter deals in some detail with pollen studies at Rae Loch. The pollen profile suggests that prehistoric activity was undertaken in an environment which continued to be heavily wooded right up to c 2920 BP (1120 cal BC), but that the late Iron Age and Roman periods witnessed considerable farming activity, including that of an arable nature.
13 - 46
A summary account of the recent fieldwork is presented in order to place the discussion of previous investigations in context. These date from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The limited archaeology in the vicinity of the dyke is described and includes a small lithic scatter. This is followed by a detailed account of the 1993-1997 surveys and the results of excavation in 1993 and 1995 and specialist reports on the palaeosols of the dyke and the soil pollen beneath it.
47 - 52
This chapter considers the date of construction of the dyke, its alignment and patterns of construction. In spite of marked variation in structural detail the Cleaven Dyke is markedly consistent in its alignment. The most obvious pattern, evident throughout, is the dimensional relationship between the central bank, the ditches, and the intervening berms - a pattern which is modified only by the increasing degree of irregularity in the SE sections. The possible astronomical alignment and the labour required to build the Cleaven Dyke are considered.
53 - 73
This chapter deals with the excavation at Littleour timber enclosure. A detailed archaeological description includes a consideration of the radiocarbon dates and the type of structure represented. It is not thought likely that the structure was roofed. There are specialist reports on pottery, daub, charred residues from the Grooved Ware vessels, flint and microwear.
74 - 91
This chapter comprises technical reports including contour models, digital terrain modelling, geophysical survey and a section on estimating soil loss from cropmark sites using the caesium 137 methodology.
92 - 108
The physical characteristics of cursus monuments and bank barrows define the Cleaven Dyke. These monument classes are currently defined solely by their morphology. Within the study area only the Cleaven Dyke and a pit-defined rectilinear enclosure at Douglasmuir, Angus have been excavated. It is suggested that cursus monuments and bank barrows were part of increasing attempts, through monumentality in Scotland's Neolithic, to connect aspects of social life from burial to domestic life and ritual, and to merge the natural with the cultural.
109 - 125
This chapter discusses the building sequence, the choice of terrain and alignment, the nature of the environment at the time of construction, function and purpose. Other Neolithic monuments which relate to Cleaven Dyke are discussed. These comprise round/oval mounds and long mounds. Littleour is compared with structures from Balfarg and elsewhere. The chapter concludes with a section on the significance of the Grooved Ware from Littleour.
126 - 130
Site conservation issues and scope for further work on the Neolithic in lowland Scotland are discussed.
This volume describes two monuments which form part of the rich Neolithic presence in Tayside, now Perthshire and Angus. The long linear monument of the Cleaven Dyke, whose bank and flanking ditches run for 2 km across the Perthshire countryside was for some centuries confidently identified as a Roman construction, linked to the nearby legionary fortress of Inchtuthil. The authors' surveys and excavations together with reinterpretation of earlier work, have relocated it decisively in its correct place, built as part of the Neolithic cursus monument tradition sometime around the late 5th-mid/late 4th millennium cal BC. The volume presents the detailed results of their study, in particular the segmented nature of the Dyke's construction, together with palaeoenvironmental background to the area and a survey of the range of cursus monuments and related barrow forms. In addition, the survey and excavation of the nearby rectilinear timber enclosure of Littleour is described and placed in its context of similar structures, both roofed and unroofed, in the late 4th to early 3rd millennia cal BC; its use a millennium later for the disposal within pits of lithics and Grooved Ware again raises questions of the nature and significance of late Neolithic ceremonial practices.
The location of the Cleaven Dyke is presented along with some background on the identification of the monument as a Roman military earthwork which was perfectly straight. A note on calibration of radiocarbon determinations is presented with a table of all the dates quoted in the text.