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Archaeology: Hillfort dating back up to 3,000 years discovered near the top of Arthur's Seat

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Ancient hillfort ‘built by the mysterious Votadini tribe’ and dating back up to 3,000 years is discovered near the top of Arthur’s Seat by archaeologists

  • Excavation is taking place atop the extinct volcano that overlooks Edinburgh
  • Work began in March 2020, but was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic
  • The settlement features thick stone walls and evidence of farming activity
  • The Votadini people that built the fort were later subsumed by Roman culture

Archaeologists working on top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh have uncovered the remains of an ancient hillfort thought to date back up to 3,000 years ago.

The prehistoric walls atop the extinct volcano were built by the Votadini — an Iron-Age Celtic tribe who once lived in southeast Scotland and northeast England.

The Votadini were also responsible for the burial site at Traprain Law in East Lothian — which was also thought to have been their capital.

Finds from Traprain Law — which include Roman coins from the continent — suggest the Votadini were ultimately Romanized and assimilated into early Scottish culture. 

Archaeologists working on top of Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh have uncovered the remains of an ancient hillfort, pictured, thought to date back up to 3,000 years ago

Archaeologists working on top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh have uncovered the remains of an ancient hillfort, pictured, thought to date back up to 3,000 years ago

The excavation work on Arthur’s seat’s north face — which presently comprises three trenches — is being conducted by CFA Archaeology in collaboration with Historic Environment Scotland.

‘More results from Arthur’s Seat! The wall line of what we think is the fort’s rampart is still surviving despite erosion,’ CFA Archaeology tweeted on September 3.

‘Hard work to get our tools up the hill, but worth it for the view!’ they added.

Previous digs on the 820 feet (250 metre) high summit had revealed 18 feet (5.4 metres) -thick stone walls, reaching around 4 feet (1.2 metres) tall, that blocked off one side of the peak — while shear cliffs protected the other.

Archaeologists have also discovered evidence that the Votadini used part of the land within the hilltop settlement for farming — and the now-barren site overlooking the Firth of Forth would have once been bustling with farmers and traders.

‘This was programmed work to evaluate the condition of archaeological remains within the park, which had initially begun in March but was postponed following the outbreak of coronavirus,’ Historic Environment Scotland told Edinburgh Live.

‘As an ancient monument which has seen thousands of years of activity, the park is rich in archaeological remains, which provide an indication of those who lived here before,’ they continued.

‘We have a team currently working who have opened up three trial trenches aimed at locating and identifying the nature and extent of archaeological features on a plateau near the summit of Arthur’s Seat.’

‘Initial findings are still being assessed but will help build a fuller picture of how the park was used and developed over the centuries, and inform the future management of this amazing place.’

Previous digs on the 820 feet (250 metre) high summit, pictured, had revealed 18 feet (5.4 metres) -thick stone walls, reaching around 4 feet (1.2 metres) tall, that blocked off one side of the peak — while shear cliffs protected the other

Previous digs on the 820 feet (250 metre) high summit, pictured, had revealed 18 feet (5.4 metres) -thick stone walls, reaching around 4 feet (1.2 metres) tall, that blocked off one side of the peak — while shear cliffs protected the other

The prehistoric walls atop the extinct volcano, pictured, were built by the Votadini — an Iron-Age Celtic tribe who once lived in southeast Scotland and northeast England

The prehistoric walls atop the extinct volcano, pictured, were built by the Votadini — an Iron-Age Celtic tribe who once lived in southeast Scotland and northeast England

Arthur’s seat is no stranger to history and legends, however.

In fact, the peak takes its name from the folktale suggesting that the mythical King Arthur is buried, asleep, in a glass coffin at the heat of the volcanic hill. 

Meanwhile, back in the summer of 1836, a collection of 17 curious ‘Lilliputian coffins’ — containing tiny, dressed dolls — were found in a recess in the rocks of the northeast side hill by a group of young boys who had been out rabbiting.

Archaeologists working on top of Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, pictured, have uncovered the remains of an ancient hillfort thought to date back up to 3,000 years ago.

Archaeologists working on top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, pictured, have uncovered the remains of an ancient hillfort thought to date back up to 3,000 years ago.

Arthur's seat is no stranger to history and legends. In fact, the peak takes its name from the folktale suggesting that the mythical King Arthur is buried, asleep, in a glass coffin at the heat of the volcanic hill, which is pictured here with Edinburgh in the foreground

Arthur’s seat is no stranger to history and legends. In fact, the peak takes its name from the folktale suggesting that the mythical King Arthur is buried, asleep, in a glass coffin at the heat of the volcanic hill, which is pictured here with Edinburgh in the foreground

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