Bronze Age burnt mounds in Annan

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Location of Hallmeadow burnt mounds at Annan © GUARD Archaeology Ltd

Recently published research by GUARD Archaeology reveals the discovery of a pair of Bronze Age burnt mounds over four thousand years old.

The discovery was made during archaeological works in advance of the construction of housing at Hallmeadow in Annan. 

‘The Hallmeadow burnt mounds comprised two large accumulations of burnt stones and charcoal surrounding large fire pits,’ said GUARD Archaeologist Kenneth Green, who led the excavation. ‘These were dated to around 2000 BC during the early Bronze Age.’

Burnt stones such as found at Hallmeadow were the waste product of a method of boiling water, in which stones were heated and then dropped into a trough filled with water. Over 1900 burnt mounds are known in Scotland, with a distinct concentration in Dumfries and Galloway, and it is not uncommon to find several burnt mounds in relatively close proximity to each other, suggesting that groups of people returned to the same sites.

The eastern burnt mound during excavation © GUARD Archaeology Ltd

Cooking fish and meat may have been the purpose of many burnt mounds. Experiments have demonstrated that a joint of meat wrapped in leaves can be cooked over several hours, with heated stones being continually fed into the tank of water to keep it boiling. However, the archaeologists found no evidence for a permanent settlement at Hallmeadow suggesting that this was no ordinary Bronze Age site.

View of the layers of burnt material and the trough in the eastern burnt mound © GUARD Archaeology Ltd

‘Hallmeadow’s proximity to the Solway Firth, gives the site easy coastal access to south-west Scotland, western England, Ireland and the Isle of Man,’ said Kenneth Green. ‘Hallmeadow may have been used as a temporary stopping-point or seasonal camping area as people made longer journeys around the Irish Sea.’

A number of flint tools were recovered during the excavation including a fragment of Arran pitchstone and a blade-scraper dating to the Neolithic period (4000-2200 BC), suggesting earlier occupation of the site. Even earlier evidence still was discovered by the GUARD Archaeologists. A hazelnut shell found in the lowest layer of the site was radiocarbon dated to between 4452 and 4264 BC, during the Mesolithic period, when some of the earliest hunter-gatherer peoples began to settle in south-west Scotland.

Plan of both burnt mounds © GUARD Archaeology Ltd

‘Hallmeadow was also an important place during the Neolithic period. It may be that it had been established as a useful stopping off place long before the burnt mounds were built,’ said Kenneth.

The archaeological work at Hallmeadow in Annan was undertaken in 2020 on behalf of Robert Potter & Partners LLP and Ashleigh Building to meet a condition of planning consent recommended by Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Archaeologist. 

Burnt Mounds at Annan by Kenneth Green is published in the Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society 96, available in local libraries.

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