West Prestonpans Enclosure
16 Dec 2011
A short precis of this project supported by the Society by Murray and Martin Cook
In 2001 AOC Archaeology in a predetermination exercise evaluated a double-ditched enclosure at Edinburgh Road, West Prestonpans, as part of larger residential development. The explicit function of the evaluation was to confirm the presence or absence of the enclosure and no allowance was required or made for processing any samples from the evaluation. Indeed, it was likely that if the enclosure survived as a substantial well preserved feature that it would be excluded from the subsequent development and preserved in situ. The site was subsequently scheduled and removed from the development, which itself has been divided in to a series of smaller plots, sold to varying developers. The post-excavation analysis has not been a requirement of the planning process. The samples remain unprocessed, and the material within them thus remain undated.
The outer enclosure ditch measured up to 4 m in width by up to 1.50 m in depth, and comprised up to four main fills, the bottom of which was subject to flooding. The enclosure has an approximate 220m circumference and encloses approximately 3600m2. A secondary ditch, internal to the larger example, was identified at two points underlying a layer of cobbling, in the eastern parcel of the area. The feature was found to measure at least 0.80 m in depth and contain three separate fills.
The interior of the enclosure was found to contain three main unrelated areas of paving/cobbling, from which a rotary quern was recovered. A linear arrangement of edge set stones appeared to from some sort of boundary to one of the areas of cobbling and may represent the remnants of a wall footing. It seems probable that the areas of paving within the enclosures interior relate to the floors of possible round-houses, similar examples have been found at Broxmouth (Hill 1982), St Germains (Alexander & Watkins 1998) and Fisher's Road, Port Seton (Haselgrove & McCullagh 2000).
A limited assemblage of artefacts was recovered from the enclosure's interior: a rotary quern, a fragment of possible Roman amphora handle, a possible worked stone and fragments of hand thrown prehistoric pottery.
Funding was granted from the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to pay for two radiocarbon dates. The samples were sieved and sorted by AOC Archaeology as support in kind.
Of the two samples submitted to SUERC for dating, one failed and other gave a Late Bronze Age date c 1000 BC. This date was extremely surprising and there are three interpretations:
1) The date is wrong;
2) The date is right but the material is residual and the enclosure dates to the LIA;
3) The date is right and is associated with the enclosure, which was subsequently reoccupied.
There is now no way to distinguish between the three options without further excavations. However, the recent Traprain Law Environs Project identified a LBA enclosure, Standingstone, with subsequent reoccupation in the closing centuries BC (Haselgrove et al 2009, 65-66) and it may well be that that West Prestonpans represents s similar process. However, even if this were the case it is not clear if the it is not clear if LIA settlement was open or enclosed. However, despite these difficulties the funding has proven extremely useful and indicated the need to be systematic in the provision of radiocarbon dating and also demonstrated the need to undertake wide key-hole excavation and dating of East Lothian's Enclosures.
Alexander, D & Watkins, T 1998 ‘St Germains, Tranent, East Lothian: the excavation of Early Bronze age remains and Iron Age enclosed and unenclosed settlements', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 128, 203-54
Haselgrove, C & McCullagh, R P J (eds) 2000 An Iron Age Coastal Community in East Lothian: the Excavation of Two Later Prehistoric Enclosure Complexes at Fishers Road, Port Seton, 1994-5. Edinburgh (=Scott Trust Archaeol Res momogr).
Haselgrove, C (ed) 2009 The Traprain Law Environs Project: Fieldwork and Excavations 2000-2004. Edinburgh.
Hill, P 1982 ‘Broxmouth Hill Excavations, 1977-8, an interim report', in Harding, D (ed) 1982, Later Prehistoric Settlement in South-East Scotland, 141-88, Edinburgh