Burnswark Training Camp 1

Marching or Temporary Camps and Practice Work

Burnswark Training Camp 1 is the southerly of the two training camps arounds Burnswark  Hillfort.

The south camp is equally unusual, although the earthwork is closer in form to the more usual rectangle. It measures about 260m from north-east to south-west by around 194m, enclosing almost 4.8ha (nearly 12 acres). There is a spring bisecting the camp, known locally as ‘Agricola’s Well’.

This camp overlies a presumed Roman fortlet situated in its northern corner, itself cut by later round-house platforms which appear to have partly utilised its perimeter (RCAHMS 1997: 181–2). Recent reassessment of the enclosure has postulated that it may not be a fortlet but relate to Iron Age occupation (H Welfare and S P Halliday pers comm). Detailed topographic survey of the enclosure and camp identified potential earlier features, and it has been suggested that some of these may indicate an earlier camp (Maxwell 1998a: 49).

The unusual element of this camp relates to its gates: while tituli are visible in the north-east, south-east and south-west sides (the latter not depicted on illus 92), the north-west side possesses three entrances protected with circular platforms (known as ‘The Three Brethren’). These measure some 3.5m high and are up to 15m across, and are frequently interpreted as ‘ballista platforms or ‘ballistaria’ (for example, see Maxwell 1998a: 46–9). Two of these were partially excavated by Barbour, who recorded that the mound of the central one was some 3.65m above the surface of the gateway and some 3.2m above the bottom of the ditch, which dips around 0.6m into the rock and is also partially stone-faced (1899: 227). The suggestion that these apparent enlarged tituli housed some form of artillery machinery was challenged by Campbell, who suggested that their enlargement was due to camp protection: the deflection of ‘heavy and destructive objects’ rolled towards the camp (2003: 29). However, he has since accepted the possibility that they are ‘ballistaria’.

Excavations in the north corner of the camp by the enclosure/fortlet recorded that the ditch was some 5.5m wide and 1.8m deep and cut through soft bedrock. The rampart was up to 1.5m high, with a number of stones acting as a kerb, suggesting that its width was 6.5m (Jobey 1978, 81). Earlier excavations had recorded that rampart and ditch were frequently’ lipped with stones’ , with the ditch some 3.6m wide and 2.7m deep, and the rampart 3.3m high (Barbour 1899: 224, fig 1). Barbour also recorded pavements in the gateways and camp interior, including the remains of a building in its centre (1899: 227–8). Later excavations by Jobey failed to locate this building, although an area of paving was noted (1978:82).