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medieval-atlas/social-and-cultural/430

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Mottes The motte or castle-mound is the best-known type of military fortification that is associated with the introduction into twelfth century Scotland offeudal land tenure and institutions. They survive most characteristically as scarped earthen mounds usually in the form of a truncated cone which often simply 'improves' a natural eminence or promontory. The summit area of the motte is usually circular on plan, but oval and rectilinear plan-types have been identified. The base of the mound is often defined by an encircling dry ditch, the upcast of which would probably be used in the construction of the motte itself. A number of mottes are set within, or lie adjacent to, enclosures or baileys, which are themselves often protected by independent systems of banks and ditches. Recent investigations have tended to suggest that in Scotland, as in other parts of the British Isles, there are roughly circular enclosures of a similar character known as ringworks. Archaeological excavations carried out at sites elsewhere in Britain have also demonstrated that a small ringwork or other structure or monument ofearlier date may form the substructure of a motte, a building sequence which is now being taken into account in the study of early castles in Scotland. Excavated sites represent only a very small proportion of the total number of mottes in Scotland, and the published archaeological evidence is still by no means suffi cient to permit broad generalisa tions about their dating and charac ter. The most recent national census produced a total of 3 18 known and possible motte-sites in Scotland, but this provisional list is being revised in the light of current fieldwork. The geographical distribution of these sites shows that by far the greatest concentration of mottes more than half their total number-i ,~,~,-~ ~ ........ -v to be found in south-west Scotland between the Clyde and the Solway. There is a less dense but appreciable scatter of mottes in central Scotland and north from the River Forth to the coast of the Moray Firth. They are, however, more numerous in regions such as the semi-independent principality of Galloway where royal authority was less clearly acknowledged at this time. In Galloway and in certain other areas the distribution of mottes extends beyond the detailed evidenceofthe feudal geography of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that is provided by the written record. But in other regions for which there is rather more abundant documentary information, a greater proportion of surviving mottes can often be correlated with the centres offiefs, and in these cases the motte-builders appear to have been private feudatories of varying ranks and social status. The relative profusion ofmottes in Nithsdale and upper Clydesdale, for example, seems to reflect a tenurial structure ofsmall fiefs, many of which are known to have been held directly of the Scottish crown. Mottes also occur in some numbers within some of the larger feudal estates such as the lordship of Annandale, where their distribution appears tocoincide with both demesne lands and sub-infeudated tenancies. Conversely, however, surviving mottes and motte-sites, and possibly other comparable types of earthwork castle, are scarce in regions such as the Lothians and the Merse where fairly intensive feudal settlement is known to have taken place. kms 0 I 25 , 50 i i 75 i i 100 miles • Mottes Distribution of mottes 430

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