School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Beyond the Wall: Over 100 new indigenous settlements found north of Hadrian’s Wall

Research led by Dr Manuel Fernández-Götz, Reader in European Archaeology and Head of Archaeology Subject Area, has identified 134 previously unknown indigenous settlements in south-west Scotland.

The work, published in the Antiquity journal, is co-authored by the School’s postdoctoral researcher Dr Ian Hardwick, as well as colleagues from Historic Environment Scotland and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre.

HCA Burnswark site from above
Burnswark from above

Within the framework of the large Leverhulme-funded project ‘Beyond Walls: Reassessing Iron Age and Roman Encounters in Northern Britain’, the team is exploring an area stretching from ca. 40 km south of Hadrian’s Wall to some 40 km north of the Antonine Wall. The aim is to gain a better understanding of the transformation of indigenous settlement patterns and lifestyles before, during, and immediately after the period of direct Roman presence in the region.

As expressed by Dr Fernández-Götz, “This is one of the most exciting regions of the Empire, as it represented its northernmost frontier, and also because Scotland was one of very few areas in Western Europe over which the Roman army never managed to establish full control”.

The first phase of this research has been a pilot study funded last year by the British Academy and focused on the region around Burnswark hillfort (south-west Scotland). This is the site of the greatest concentration of Roman projectiles found in Britain, witness to the firepower that Rome’s legions could bring to bear on those who opposed them. Dr Fernández-Götz and the team have been expanding beyond Burnswark, studying LiDAR data from the surrounding 1,500 km². Although part of the area had been extensively studied in the past, the team discovered 134 previously unrecorded Iron Age settlements in the region, bringing the total to over 700. While many larger sites were already known, the survey has discovered many small farmsteads that are important because they represent the settlements within which the majority of the indigenous population lived. Such finds help paint a fuller picture of the ancient landscape, revealing often dense distributions of sites dispersed across the region with a regularity that speaks of a highly organised settlement pattern.

The 'Beyond Walls' project will run until August 2024.


Dr Manuel Fernández-Götz's staff profile

Dr Ian Hardwick's staff profile

Find out more about the 'Beyond Walls' project