Frontier fortlet found

Carleith, West Dunbartonshire

IMAGE: Historic Environment Scotland

Of the 41 Roman fortlets that are believed to have been built along the Antonine Wall, the remains of only nine had previously been located – until a recent geophysical survey carried out by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) added a tenth to their number.

The site in question had been mentioned by the antiquarian Robert Sibbald, who wrote about a fortlet near Carleith Farm in 1707, and it also appeared on John Horsley’s map from 1732. Since then, though, it had become lost, and excavations in the 1970s and 1980s were unable to find any trace of it. With the advent of non-invasive surveying techniques, however, a larger area can be analysed without needing to put trowel to soil. To see if such methods could help find the lost fortlet, HES carried out a gradiometry survey of a field near Carleith Primary School in West Dunbartonshire. Sure enough, the survey revealed the outline of the fortlet’s stone base, upon which a c.2m-high rampart would have once stood. For the 20 years that the Antonine Wall was defended (AD 142-162), 10-12 soldiers, probably from the larger Duntocher fort, which once stood nearby, would have been stationed in two small wooden buildings on a one-week rotation. The reconstruction shown in the inset image is of Watling Lodge forlet, which would have looked very similar to the Carleith example.

IMAGE: Historic Environment Scotland

The fortlet’s designation is now being reviewed by HES to ensure that it is protected as part of the larger ‘Frontiers of the Roman Empire’ UNESCO World Heritage Site, which also encompasses Hadrian’s Wall and the German Limes (see

TEXT: K Krakowka

IMAGES: Historic Environment Scotland