King’s Seat Hillfort Archaeology Project

With dominating views over Strath Tay, King’s Seat hillfort is situated on a prominent hilltop above an important bend in the River Tay at Dunkeld. The existence of the site has been known for at least the last century and the hillfort is protected by law as a nationally important site. However, its summit was obscured by dense rhododendrons which obstructed access and little was actually understood about. How old is it? How did it develop? Did people live there and what was it used for? Only basic plans of the surviving earthworks have been made and no previous archaeological investigations have ever taken place. In 2016 local resident Dave MacDougall of the Dunkeld & Birnam Historical Society contacted PKHT and with our advice organised a local work team to cut back the rhododendrons – a massive task! This was the beginning of a partnership through which a great community archaeology project developed.


Project Partners:

The project is a partnership between Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust and the Dunkeld and Birnam Historical Society with AOC Archaeology Group as archaeological contractors.


Project Funders:

      

Discover King's Seat

Project Aims

Since 2018 the project has been celebrating King’s Seat and exploring it’s story with members of the local community. Volunteers have joined professional archaeologists to survey and excavate the site over three fieldwork seasons as well as helping to undertake placename research and share the King’s Seat story with the wider community through talks and a living history fair. The project has now installed interpretation boards at the site and produced leaflets to interpret the site to visitors, residents and future generations. Full publication of the results will follow as will a display including replica artefacts in the Dunkeld Community Archives.

Project Aims

Since 2018 the project has been celebrating King’s Seat and exploring it’s story with members of the local community. Volunteers have joined professional archaeologists to survey and excavate the site over three fieldwork seasons as well as helping to undertake placename research and share the King’s Seat story with the wider community through talks and a living history fair. The project has now installed interpretation boards at the site and produced leaflets to interpret the site to visitors, residents and future generations. Full publication of the results will follow as will a display including replica artefacts in the Dunkeld Community Archives.

Digging King’s Seat

The three seasons of fieldwork have unearthed an amazing selection of early historic artefacts and radio carbon dated features suggest that King’s Seat was an important centre of local power with influence over the trade and production of high status goods in the early historic/Pictish period (c.600-900 AD).

The third and final season of project excavations at King’s Seat was in September 2019 and just like the years before, there was a great team of community volunteers digging into their heritage. 30 people from the local community and further afield, many returning from the previous two seasons, were joined by University Students on assessed archaeolog...

Read More

Digging King’s Seat

The three seasons of fieldwork have unearthed an amazing selection of early historic artefacts and radio carbon dated features suggest that King’s Seat was an important centre of local power with influence over the trade and production of high status goods in the early historic/Pictish period (c.600-900 AD).

The third and final season of project excavations at King’s Seat was in September 2019 and just like the years before, there was a great team of community volunteers digging into their heritage. 30 people from the local community and further afield, many returning from the previous two seasons, were joined by University Students on assessed archaeological fieldwork training, secondary school pupils from Pitlochry High School and numerous other daily visitors.

Over the three years of excavation we have uncovered lots of evidence of domestic activity. Hearths have been found on the upper citadel and the western terrace and the finds suggest there was possibly feasting within one of the large buildings – large number of animal bones, teeth and horn fragments as well as fragments of a glass drinking vessel and gaming pieces.

In addition, spindle whorls have been found plus extensive remains of both iron and precious metal working activity. The crucibles, stone and clay moulds and whetstones indicate craft production has taken place and what is particularly interesting is that this activity has been found everywhere we have excavated. This suggests that the iron and precious metal working was fairly extensive and the site was therefore a centre for production rather than just the home of a small group of people making items for their own use.

Evidence that this site was an important place are reinforced by some E-ware ceramic finds imported from the Continent and Anglo-Saxon glass beads (identified by Dr Ewan Campbell, University of Glasgow). These finds indicate wide ranging trading links existed with Europe.

The artefacts uncovered are in keeping with other high-status or royal sites that have been dated to the early historic period including Dunadd, Dundurn, Mote of Mark and Buiston crannog with the radiocarbon dates indicating 7th-8th century AD activity. We are eagerly awaiting further dating evidence from samples taken in 2019 and look forward to sharing the results when they become available.

The Project Story and Results

Clues in Names

The name King’s Seat comes from Scots English and was likely named after King William the Lion of Scotland (1165-1214 AD) visited Dunkeld and used the hill as a deer hunting vantage point.

The name Dunkeld derives from the Scottish Gaelic word dùn meaning hillfort and Cailleann meaning Caledonians (the name associated with the native people living in this area, first mentioned by Roman authors c.200 AD).

As part of the project, a place-name survey was commissioned to unlock more of King’s Seat’s history and Dunkeld’s early origins from the names of natural and man-made features.

Click here to check out the report to find out more.

Clues in Names

The name King’s Seat comes from Scots English and was likely named after King William the Lion of Scotland (1165-1214 AD) visited Dunkeld and used the hill as a deer hunting vantage point.

The name Dunkeld derives from the Scottish Gaelic word dùn meaning hillfort and Cailleann meaning Caledonians (the name associated with the native people living in this area, first mentioned by Roman authors c.200 AD).

As part of the project, a place-name survey was commissioned to unlock more of King’s Seat’s history and Dunkeld’s early origins from the names of natural and man-made features.

Click here to check out the report to find out more.

Picts in the Park Living History Fair 2018

Picts in the Park was a celebration of Dunkeld’s early historic heritage, the town’s namesake hillfort and the community project that’s revealing so much about Dunkeld’s Pictish origins. From 11:00 until 15:00 Stanley Park echoed with the clash of shields and the sounds of Pictish industry as re-enactors from Regia Anglorum took attendees back in time to the early historic period with technology and weapons demonstrations.

From the energy of the combat arena to the tranquillity of the storytelling tent, there was much to be enjoyed for all ages as visitors got to grips with traditional skills such as metal casting and smithing, leatherwork......

Read More

Picts in the Park Living History Fair 2018

Picts in the Park was a celebration of Dunkeld’s early historic heritage, the town’s namesake hillfort and the community project that’s revealing so much about Dunkeld’s Pictish origins. From 11:00 until 15:00 Stanley Park echoed with the clash of shields and the sounds of Pictish industry as re-enactors from Regia Anglorum took attendees back in time to the early historic period with technology and weapons demonstrations.

From the energy of the combat arena to the tranquillity of the storytelling tent, there was much to be enjoyed for all ages as visitors got to grips with traditional skills such as metal casting and smithing, leatherworking, timber construction and stone carving, all inspired by the remarkable archaeological discoveries being made on the hillfort. For those keen to see the site itself there were minibus tours. For the less adventurous, talks hosted by project archaeologists from Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust and AOC Archaeology Group were offered in the Duchess Anne Hall. If this wasn’t enough, placename expert Dr Peter McNiven was on hand in Dunkeld Community Archives to explain the fascinating meanings behind many local place names, the tales behind which were brought to life by captivating storyteller Owen Pilgrim.

The event was opened by Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust patron Dougie MacLean with the mixed weather doing little to discourage over 600 people from attending throughout the day.

All images taken by the talented Bart Masiukiewicz.

Find out more in the Dig Blog!

The project dig diary records the digs and discoveries as they happened . Click and scroll your way through images and stories of Dunkeld’s exciting early historic heritage as it was uncovered between 2017 and 2019: https://kingseatarchaeology.tumblr.com

Find out more in the Dig Blog!

The project dig diary records the digs and discoveries as they happened . Click and scroll your way through images and stories of Dunkeld’s exciting early historic heritage as it was uncovered between 2017 and 2019: https://kingseatarchaeology.tumblr.com

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