Dunnicaer, Aberdeenshire, Scotland: a Roman Iron Age promontory fort beyond the frontier

Gordon Noble*, Nicholas Evans, Derek Hamilton, Cathy MacIver, Edouard Masson-MacLean, James O'Driscoll, Gemma Cruickshanks (Collaborator), Fraser Hunter (Collaborator), Dominic Ingemark (Collaborator), Ingrid Mainland (Collaborator), Simon Taylor (Collaborator), Colin Wallace

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Dunnicaer, Aberdeenshire, a now isolated sea stack, is the findspot of five Pictish symbol stones discovered in the nineteenth century. Excavations from 2015 to 2017 have revealed a Roman Iron Age promontory fort, providing insights into the development of fortified settlement in north-east Scotland, with fortified sites being a key feature of first millennium AD elite practice in this region. The presence of rare and unusual finds indicates contact with the Roman world to the south and changes in the character of settlement as evidenced at Dunnicaer indicate broader transitions in the later Roman Iron Age native society. The archaeological sequence at Dunnicaer sheds new light on the adoption of non-roundhouse styles of architecture in first millennium AD Scotland and provides important evidence for the dating of the Pictish symbol tradition. A consideration of the impacts of coastal erosion on promontories of this nature suggests these are amongst the most threatened archaeological sites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-338
Number of pages83
JournalArchaeological Journal
Issue number2
Early online date28 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2020

Bibliographical note


Thanks to Dunecht Estate for granting permission to access and investigate Dunnicaer. Duncan Paterson of North-east Mountaineering very ably got the team up on top and ensured our safety at all times. Many thanks to the brave diggers Michael Stratigos, Claire Christie, Vanessa Rees, Rob Lenfert, Oskar Sveinbjarnarson, Grace Woolmer, Anni Tolppanen, John Graham, Victoria Wilson, Katie South, Juudit Gross, Scott White, Gemma Cruickshanks, John Harrison, Sarah Elliot, Jeff Oliver and Juliette Mitchell (and Duncan). Bruce Mann and Caroline Palmer kindly provided scans of aerial photographs of Dunnicaer from the Aberdeenshire SMR records. The project was funded by Don and Elizabeth Cruickshank through the University of Aberdeen Development Trust, by Aberdeenshire Council and through grant funding from the Strathmartine Trust.


  • Pictish
  • Roman Iron Age
  • fort
  • settlement
  • symbol stone
  • coastal erosion


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