Doon Hill

Near Dunbar, East Lothian



The remains at Doon Hill lay hidden until their outlines were identified on aerial photographs.

Archaeological excavation in the 1960s suggested the two halls were early historic and  dated to the AD 500s and 600s.

The evidence suggested the first hall was that of a native lord, destroyed during an Anglian invasion in AD 638. The second hall was believed to have been built by an occupying Anglian lord after the invasion.

However, this interpretation is now questioned. Re-analysis of the pottery found and radiocarbon dating point to an early prehistoric date for the first hall’s construction. Similar halls dating to the early Neolithic period have been found elsewhere in Scotland, such as Balbridie in Aberdeenshire.

It now appears that the first hall was built about 6000 years ago by Scotland’s earliest farmers. Why two timber halls of similar form were built on the same site 4,000 years apart in time remains a mystery.

More than meets the eye

The main features of Doon Hill are those two timber halls, set within a palisaded enclosure. But there are a range of other features, indicating many phases of activity across the hilltop.

Graves and the remains of cremated human bone indicate this site was used as a cemetery in the Bronze Age. A small square timber structure, marked out in yellow at the north of the enclosure, might have been a ritual building or temple linked with cremation burials.

The earliest timber hall is marked out in grey concrete. It’s 23m long, with a large central room and two smaller ones on either side.

A timber palisade with two entrances is marked out in yellow concrete and encloses the hall and ‘temple’.

The second hall is marked out in red concrete. It overlies the first, but it’s slightly smaller. It’s similar in size and shape to Anglian timber halls like that a Yeavering in Northumberland, but only further investigation will help us understand when it was built.

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