Dr Brophy points out the extent of the Broich Cursus
Crieff High School pupils lay out the plan of the Pittentian Round house
The growing importance of Strathearn as an area of significance in a Neolithic Scotland was further emphasised last week with the visit to the Campus site by Dr Kenneth Brophy of
and his archaeologist colleague Ally Becket of Northlight
Heritage . The visitation was part of the Glasgow University and Kinross Archaeology Month organised by the Perth and Kinross Heritage trust . Apart from the
significance of the Cursus dating
back to 3000 BC a number of recent finds
throughout the Strath have now
firmly established this part of Perthshire as something unique in the long path to Scottish nationhood . Perth
Ally Becket discussed in some detail the Pittentian round house located during the pre construction work on the Beauly to Denny overhead power line . It was graphically illustrated to an appreciative audience the size and type of construction involved .Thanks to the cooperation of the pupils of Crieff High School , a layout was constructed using a number of large pots to illustrate the positioning of the post holes . The captivated audience then climbed the adjoining embankment to the school rugby pitch and were able to look down on the layout and appreciate just how large it was actually .
Earlier the audience listened attentively to Ken Brophy as he outlined what was now known about the Broich Cursus . Dr Brophy is part of the SERF (Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot ) team who have carried out a considerable amount of excavation and study of the area since 2006 and is a renowned authority on the Cursus that have so far been discovered in Scotland
Between 2006 and 2010 Alder and SUAT Ltd had investigated what is now known as the Broich Cursus monument. Broadly speaking Cursus monuments are long Neolithic enclosures bounded by ditches, banks or pits usually built on gravelly river terraces. The are many interpretations for these structures from ceremonial processional ways to strips of land where people were prohibited to walk, but the truth is that the function of these monuments is poorly understood.
The Broich Cursus was originally identified from aerial photographs showing a 400m long crop mark in a field south of
Crieff. The monument comprised two ditches (135-105m apart) which diverged
slightly as the monument extended north. North of the Broich Road the monument could not be traced on aerial photos,
the western ditch crossing a grassy field and the eastern seeming to follow Pittenzie Road.
When the land north of
Broich Road became the focus for the development
of the new community campus, an archaeological investigation took place to try
to locate traces of the Cursus. In the first phase of work (2006) trial
trenching successfully located the western ditch, but unfortunately the eastern
ditch was not found which suggested that it presumably ran along land now
occupied by Pittenzie Road. In 2007 the turf and topsoil covering
the western ditch was stripped right back, exposing a 147m length. No
associated bank had survived, a sign that the field may have been ploughed over
after the monument went out of use. The ditch varied in depth from between
0.56m deep to just 4cm deep, and was 1.5-2.5m wide and had gently sloping,
roughly symmetrical sides and a flat to concave base. It was most shallow in
the northern-most excavated portion.
The old school is located to the north It was demolished about 2009
The focus of the 2009 investigations was to find out how far the western ditch had survived under the playing fields towards
(the 1960s school, now demolished).
Surprisingly the ditch was found to have survived right up to the school walls
under a tarmac playground. The dimensions of the ditch were roughly as they had
been in the 2008 phase (2.2m wide and up to 0.4m deep). One interesting
discovery from this phase was that the ditch bent eastwards here, suggesting
that the ditch in this area was approaching the northern terminal of the
Cursus. Terminals of cursus monuments are generally considered important as
they seem to be the focus for ritual activity . Unfortunately when trial trenches were placed across the demolished school in 2010 it was found that the construction of the old school
had destroyed any evidence of the monument's terminal. Crieff High School
Dr Brophy pointed out that the northern end of the Cursus would have provided a spectacular view of the rising hills above Crieff and that the overall size was such that it could well have taken some decades to construct .
South of the Broich Cursus across the River Earn is another cursus at Bennybeg on the road to Muthill . Once again one of the key points is that it adjoins a spectacular item of scenic grandeur , namely the rock face which nowadays attracts young trainee climbers from all over .
Much is still to be learned from these monuments from the past which have largely lain undisturbed since pre history . They have added yet more to the fascination of Strathearn’s ancient past .