Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Traprain Law is a hill about 221m (724 feet) in elevation, located 6km (4 miles) east of Haddington in East Lothian,Scotland. It is the site of an oppidum or hill fort, which covered at its maximum extent about 16 ha (40 acres) and must have been a veritable town. Whether it was a seasonal meeting place or permanent settlement is a matter for speculation.
The hill was already a place of burial by around 1500 BC, and showed evidence of occupation and signs of ramparts after 1000 BC. The ramparts were rebuilt and re-aligned many times in the following centuries. Excavations have shown it was occupied in the Late Iron Age from about 40 through the last quarter of the 2nd century (about the time that the Antonine Wall was manned). Following the Roman withdrawal to the line of Hadrian's Wall it was occupied from about 220 almost uninterruptedly until about 400 when an impressive new rampart was built, then within a few decades the site was abandoned.
In the 1st century the Romans recorded the Votadini as a British tribe in the area, and Traprain Law is generally thought to have been one of their major settlements. They emerged as a kingdom under the Brythonic version of their name Gododdin and Traprain Law is thought to have been their capital before moving to Din Eidyn (Edinburgh Castle). Although seven Pictish chains have been found by archaeologists, these were another Brythonic Celtic people and interchange may have occurred, possibly during a Pictish raid.
A team led by Curle and Cree began the first excavations in 1914 and continued them until 1923, finding layers of fragmentary stone and timber houses under the turf. In 1919, they recovered a hoard consisting of sliced up Roman silverware with Mediterranean motifs, which was interpreted as the spoils from a raid on Late Roman Gaul during the 5th century. Armit notes that the treasure was buried about the time of the last rampart, and probably originated as diplomatic gifts from Roman authorities in the south or from trade links, though it might have come from a raid beyond Hadrian's Wall.
Further excavations were made in 1939 by Cruden and in 1947 by Bersu.
- R.W. Feachem, "The Fortifications on Traprain Law," Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 89 (1955-6), 284-9.
- Scotland's Hidden History - Ian Armit, Tempus (in association with Historic Scotland) 1998, ISBN 0-7486-6067-4
- Scotland Before History - Stuart Piggott, Edinburgh University Press 1982, ISBN -07524-1400-3
- Guide to Prehistoric Scotland - Richard Feachem, B.T.Batsford Ltd. 1977, ISBN 0-7134-3264-0
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