For those interested in the earliest histories of urbanism, new discoveries in Scotland require a whole new focus.
Archaeologists have discovered that perhaps as many as 4,000 people in 800 huts were living on a single hill at Tap O’North village between the 3rd and 6th centuries AD.
“Their discovery means that the area, which today is a quiet village home to just a few hundred people, once had a hilltop settlement that at its height may have rivalled the largest known post-Roman settlements in Europe … the huge fort dated to the fifth to sixth centuries AD and that it was occupied at the same time as the elite complex in the valley at Barflat farm. Dating shows that settlement on the hill extended as far back to the third century, but both hut platforms excavated also had fifth to sixth century AD phases…
At 16.75 hectares, it is “bigger than anything we know from early medieval Britain – the previous biggest known fort in early medieval Scotland is Burghead at around five and a half hectares and in England famous post-Roman sites such as Cadbury Castle is seven hectares and Tintagel around five hectares.
“The Tap O’ Noth discovery shakes the narrative of this whole time period. If each of the huts we identified had four or five people living in them then that means there was a population of upwards of 4,000 people living on the hill. That’s verging on urban in scale and in a Pictish context we have nothing else that compares to this.”