Exploring a later prehistoric landscape on the Threave Estate, Castle Douglas

The latest event run by Discovering Dumfries and Galloway’s Past was survey on the Threave Estate, Castle Douglas, run in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

The surveys brought together a strong team volunteers from both the local community, as well as further afield, keen to learn more about both resistance and magnetic survey, as well as trying their hand at topographic survey. We were joined by volunteers from the NTS Thistle Camp, who got things started with the resistance survey on the Monday. More volunteers, including some on work experience, joined us for the rest of the week, carrying out both geophysical survey and topographic survey, learning how to use the total station, a very accurate piece of surveying equipment used to build a 3D model of Meikle Wood Hill.

3D model of Meiklewood Hill, from survey data collected by volunteers

We were also joined on the Tuesday morning by a class of P3 students from Castle Douglas Primary. They were encouraged to think about the wider landscape whilst climbing up to the spot where people were settling nearly 3,000 years ago. The pupils got to have a go at a number of surveys – including both resistance survey as well as plane table survey – which they all seemed very keen to take part in. The also enjoyed seeing the magnetic survey equipment – and seeing just how much metal they all had on them! They also got to charge up at their teachers, who were tasked with defending the enclosure sitting on top of the hill!

The results
In the dry summer of 1984, aerial photographs were taken of Meikle Wood Hill, part of the Threave Estate at Kelton Mains. The photographs show an enclosure c.50m across, formed of two circuits of ditches, with a roundhouse at the centre. Excavations elswhere suggested that this might date from the later prehistoric period, maybe the 1st millennium BC. This formed the target for the series of surveys, looking for further detail which may not have been showing up from the air.

Cameron in full flow, collecting magnetic survey data. © Sally Bijl

The results of both magnetic and resistance surveys have provided complementary data, adding significant detail to this site which is not apparent from the air. The magnetic survey recorded a number of possible pit features, against a generally quiet background of activity. These appear to be both within and outside the double ditched enclosure, which was strikingly apparent in the resistance survey carried out across this area.

The results of both surveys overlaid on top of the aerial photograph. The edge of the enclosure is very visible whilst a number of pits are visible both outside and within the enclosed area.

The results of the surveys were showcased on an Open Day, held at Kelton Mains on Saturday 13th October, to which there were 42 visitors keen to learn more about how what we had found out contributed to understanding the later prehistoric landscape around Castle Douglas.

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