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Vitrified Forts

scotland, structures, artificial, stone, wall and character

VITRIFIED FORTS, the name given to certain remarkable stone iuclosures bearing traces of the action of fire, about fifty of which exist in various parts of Scotland. They are generally situated on a small hill, a considerable valley, and consist of a wall, which may have originally been about 12 ft. in height, inelosing a level area on the summit of the hill. The most remarkable feature of these structures is, that the wall is always more or less consolidated by the action of firein some cases only to the extent of giving a glassy coating to its inner side, while in other instances the vitrifica tion has been more complete, the ruins assuming the character of vast masses of coarse glass. Structures of this kind are to be found at Noath and Dunnideer, in Aberdeen shire; Craig Phadrick, Tordun, and Glenever, in Inverness-shire; Knockfarril, in Ross shire; Creich, in Sutherlandshire; Dunskeig, in Argyleshire; Finhaven, in Forfarsbire; and elsewhere, but principally in the northern counties. They were first noticed by Mr. John Williams, in his Account of some Remarkable Ancient Ruins lately diecorered in the Highlands and Northern Parts of Scotland, published in 1777. Mr. Williams's observa tions led him to conclude that they were artificial structures intentionally vitrified by a partial melting of their materials. Mr. Williams's views were combated by other writers, who contended that the supposed forts were of volcanic origin, a supposition quite irreconcilable with their obviously artificial character. ID 1828 the subject engaged the attention of the society of antiquaries of Scotland, a series of careful obser vations being made by Dr. Samuel Hibbert, one of the secretaries of that body: and the conclugion arrived at was, that while the structures were artificial, the vitrification was an accidental effect, which might have arisen from such causes as the frequent kindling of beacon fires as signals of war and invasion, or of bonfires forming a part of festive or religious rejoicings. The alkali produced from the accumulation of the ashes of con

tinually blazing wood-fires would be a powerful aid to the fusion of stone. The view originally taken by Mr. Williams has since been supported by Dr. John 31'Culloch, who argues that the character of the works shows them to have been designed for defen sive military posts, and observes, that in some cases where the most accessible materials for a stone-fort are incapable of vitrification, stones more capable of being vitrified have been brought from a distance. Dr. Petrie has noted one vitrified fort in the county of Cavan, and four in the county of Londonderry. and be conjectures that they belonged to the Irish Picts. A single instance, that of the "camp of Perm" in Brittany, occurs is France. In this case, only the central portion, or core, of the wall is vitrified, and in it a Roman roofing tile was found by M. Lukis firmly attached to the melted stone. A number of the of Bohemia have also been found to be constructed with a core of vitrified stones occupying the center of the walls. Dr. Foliseh attributes them to the bronze age and to a Celtic race. More detailed descriptions of these Irish, Breton, and Bohemian examples, however, are necessary to enable us to pronounce definitely as to their identity with those of Scotland. But there seems to be little doubt that the vit rification in them all was the work of design, though produced, it may be, by different methods, and with structural intentions not quite the same.—See' Arcliceologia Scotia, vol. iv.; M'Culloch's Highlands and Western Islands of Scotland; Burton's Histen of Scotland, chap. 3; Proceedings Soc. Antiq. Scot., vol. viii. p. 145.