[ISSN 1974-028X]








filosofia & religione


storia & sport


turismo storico




























N. 23 - Novembre 2009 (LIV)


di Antonio Montesanti


1. Introduction

The following work looks at different analyses layers that may be used to understand the architectural-social relation following the principles of access and spatial theory (Hillier & Hanson 1984a; Graham 1999: 51, Foster 1989: 40-44) concerning Scotland’s most southern Broch’s enclosure site. This site has been the subject of extensive excavations in nineteenth century (Turnbull 1881). The study is based on the resurveyed plan by Dunwell, mapped after the excavation of nine trenches in winter 1996 (Dunwell 1999). The essay’s structure assesses the functional space organization and the access system, external and internal, allowing for theoretical approaches to be discussed.

2. Landscape and positioning (1)

 The enclosure system lies at the point where the north-eastern slope of Cockburn Law (upon the summit of which is situated a poorly understood and under-studied hillfort) rises steeply to meet the Whiteadder Water, north of Duns. Other relevant elements are constituted by two smaller settlement places and one disused copper mine (Hoardweel) along the river (Armit 2003c: 124).

1 - Landscape and remarkable elements map

3. Exterior and carrier access(es) evaluation (2)

Two ditches draw an elliptical shape enclosing a wide area (140m by 75m) the circumference of which, is interrupted by at least six ancient breaks, defined as entrances A-F, (G is modern) (Dunwell 1999: 309). It has been proposed that the C break is a primary feature and argued that the walled passage F could be associated with the settlement and passes through the fort ramparts to an original entrance (Turnbull 1857; Ritchie & Graham 1988, 74; Dunwell 1999: 312). Those two main entrances are each connected with two focal landscape areas.  The first one, probably the foremost (SW), with the hillfort and the second with the mining zone (SSE). However, there is no justification that the passages C and F represent the only primary original entrances to the fort (Dunwell 1999: 312).

2 - External accesses map (after Dunwell 1999: 311)

4. Building, depth and assessment of access map (3, 4, 5)

Using the definition by which Iron Age enclosures are qualified as “buildings” (Grahame 1999: 51), we have the justified access map with respect to exterior by system or access (gamma) analysis (Hillier & Hanson 1984a: 82-175; Grahame 1999: 55-58; Foster 1989: 44-49).


3 - Posited access map

4 - Unjustified access (gamma) map superimposed

5 - Justified access (gamma) map

The enclosure’s plan appears disorganized, chaotic, and apparently random. However, this agglomeration of structures responds to the consequences of rules (Fletcher 1977: 49-53; Grahame 1999: 51). Considering the entire structure as a unique “social unit” (Wallace-Hadrill 1988: 49; 1994: 7), we would deduce how the social life was constituted (Grahame 1999: 49) – contrasting the “theory of power” by which the social life would reproduce itself (Thébert 1987: 408) – with a “practical consciousness” (Giddens 1984: 41-45).  Although the structures suggested that they are unlikely to relate to different phases of use (Dunwell 1999: 312), we can deduce that there are two phases by the spatial connection of the gamma analysis justified access map, if we have established the correct relationships between internal spaces.

We have a central primary “core” of the entire enclosure which allows us to recognise a first phase virtually and chronologically separated from other elements correlated with the carrier route access (access map, left side). In the structure’s core there seems be a wish to link the entrance arrangements (and the movement of people through it) to two transitional spaces (3-14) that should lead up to the broch. The broch itself represents the deepest feature of the access points of the enclosure.  Other transitional access points or spaces are 2, 14, 15, 29 and particularly 37 which seem to have the characteristics and function of corridors. The creation of large yards could have had two aims. 

The first taken together with the other structures, might be the staging or setting for human action. The second aim might have been to create empty volumes of space as well as big storage places or a massive space that might almost have acted like a large open meeting space, as “all human actions are social actions” (Hillier and Hanson 1984, 1; Grahame 1999: 51; Giddens 1984: 375). The two great yards present in the core (6 and 16) are connected directly by narrow accesses respectively to other two big yards (22 and 38).

5. Close and open spaces (focus on the yards and roundhouses)

Through the Main Depth it is clear that the two most important yards are positioned in the furthest point with respect to the external accesses and than are the less accessible, excluding the core broch. In the two external enclosures (ramparts), formed by two large yards (33, 35), the roundhouses seem have a properly aim. Indeed, whereon the practice’s fixation of the prior broch phase have implied the fixation of meaning of the precedent experience in reproducing the two new gateways. By observing the access map, it does not appear difficult to link the characteristic situation of the yards to the Defensible Space Paradigm (6) or to the open and close cell scheme (Newman 1972; Hillier & Hanson 1984b: 6; Grahame 1997: 146-150).

6 - Difendible Space Paradigm (Grahame 1997: 139)

Considering the big circumferences as the yards and the little ones jointed as the roundhouses, the access analysis experience brings out the new conception of roundhouse as pure defensive element. The connecting spaces are each “controlled” by the circular buildings as well as each of the large yards. Yard 6 is directly controlled by the main broch, the yard 16 only by the bigger example of the roundhouses (17), while the yards 22 and 28 represent obligatory passageways. The boundary’s concept features and the building space create its meaning through its relational order Space Paradigm or to the open and closed cell scheme (Hillier & Hanson 1984a: 73; Grahame 1999: 55). Examination of previously excavated roundhouses seems repeat the broch experience as sub-circular dry-stone structure (36, 31, 34, 30, 27, 20, 21, 26, 23, stand by size the n. 17 out). Those roundhouses, except the 6, are present in all the others yards sometime collocated in the boundaries (26 e 27), some other times in the middle of the yards (23, 24 and 20, 21) and are incorporated in the architectural enclosure; at same time,  they are instrument of spatial subdivision for the yards (16 and 38) connecting and splitting them. They take the function of 'guard chambers', and intramural cells, which are of indubitably exotic influence to the Tyne/Forth settlement and structural record (Dunwell 1999: 347; Armit 2003c: 123).

6. Comparison with other similar systems (7)

The roundhouses enclosure can be reasonably comparable demonstrate the paragon with Atlantic, such as Howe, Lingro and Gurness in Orkney (Ballin-Smith 1994; Foster 1989: 45-47). Comparison with Gurness or Bu main round or “tower broch” structures (Ritchie & Graham 1988: 74; Armit 2003c: 124; Foster 1989: 44-45) is evident. However the surrounding enclosure seems be totally different: squared elements instead circular houses whereon the disposition is placed along a main straight access-way directly from the access route until the broch’s entrance is reached. Moreover the complex structures are isometrically disposed (symmetrically), based on narrow and direct access point.


7 - Comparison Gurness and Edin’s Hill gamma maps (after Foster 1989)

We can use the hierarchical scheme of 'broch towers' and compare the 'Atlantic roundhouses', contrasting the theory by which they would be such 'substantial houses' or 'complex roundhouses' (Armit 1990a; Dunwell 1999: 347). It has been proposed that southern brochs were local stone versions of 'substantial houses' incorporating in the Atlantic roundhouses enclosures (Hingley 1992: 27-28; Dunwell 1999: 351), can not explain totally why such novel architectural forms were adopted at Edin’s Hall, because most of them appear isolated in the enclosure.

7. Relationship among enclosure, buildings and landscape

Topographical and positioning comparison of broch’s philosophy seek the necessity to find their collocation above a terrace eroded by a water-course or by sea detectable in the northern Atlantic above the sea coastal and in the eastern Scottish Borders, according to 'scarp-edge' type (Christison 1895: 167-9; Lynn 1895; Macinnes 1984a: 181; Dunwell 1999: 309), in the way can be ensure the defence of one long side. The building of fort ramparts and new enclosures located at the northeast slope and with the addition of two new protecting gates justify the need to open them on that side. However, the creation of this yard required the levelling of a sector of the fort earthworks (Dunwell 1999: 319). The direction of the gates look to the copper mine not too far from there, that could explain the construction on this side, where the roundhouses’ role and position is connected with the yards. However, the ramparts are bounded to the ‘core enclosure’ only by one access, permitting so a major control.

8. Findings

Among the few artefacts, the most significant is represented by the discovery of two copper ingots in pure metal (20 kg each), that explain the exploitation of the near copper mine. The circumstances of discovery are very strange. Only one of the ingots is still with us and was found under the stairs of one access point of the broch (Dunwell 1999: 338-340; Armit 2003c: 124).

9. Structural and social function

Recent commentators have tended to argue that the broch reflects the high status of the personage or a pre-eminent family through its foundation on a previously unoccupied site, with a later settlement developing around it (Macinnes 1984b: 236; Hingley 1992, 28-9; Dunwell 1999: 351; Foster 1989: 49).

It is not tenable that the enclosure structures have east-facing entrances, following the prehistoric roundhouse entrances.  Perhaps they are imbued with cosmological significance (Armit 1997b: 99).  More than a doubt comes that the broch was constructed as a status symbol reflecting the wealth and importance of its occupants in the ‘centre’ of which lived the family (Macinnes 1984a: 192-195; Hingley 1992; Dunwell 1999: 348).

The site does not appear to primarily reflect considerations of defence due to the lack of non-defensive location, as appears to be the case at the hillfort above. That could be disputable, looking at the circumstances and the positioning of ingots found, might lead us to think and considering the access map, the further access point, is that the ingot was laid in a hidden position perhaps as a votive deposit (Armit 2003c: 124; Dunwell 1999: 345). The importance of the ingot is that it represents the resource which gave Edin's Hall its wealth. The entire structure could have been used to defend the mining as well as the control system of the area, where it could be a copper storage centre.

10. Final considerations

“The peripheral position of these structures may reflect an expansion of the settlement” (Dunwell 1999: 319). The structure’s enclosure neither reflects a very complex system nor a settlement system, since there are fairly few house structures within it. Position, internal disposition and external accesses collocate like a nodal point in a position of control of production area in the middle between the hillfort and the mine, reflecting an architectural system based on resource exploitation, storage and defence, where the river become a fundamental element.





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