Some of you may have already seen this wonderful drone footage by Kieran Baxter featuring the Caterthuns, a pair of large hill forts about one kilometre apart on a ridge overlooking Strathmore, near the city of Brechin in Angus, Scotland. The first monument is situated to the west, an oval shaped enclosure surrounded by earthworks and topped by a dry-stone wall which gives the site its name of the White Caterthun (this defensive perimeter, originally several metres high and an amazing twelve metres thick, shows evidence of vitrification, the rocks having been subject to incredibly intense heat causing them to turn into a hardened glass-like substance). A well or cistern sits in the middle of the site. The second and historically earlier spot, to the east, is surrounded by five or six earthen embankments which seem to have been periodically burned, giving it the nickname of the Brown Caterthun (though ultimately the name may derive from terms related to the Welsh words caer “fortress” and bryn “hill”). There is very little evidence of permanent settlement on either site so their purpose remains uncertain, whether military, mercantile or ceremonial. Both feature a number entrances to the summit which radiate outwards and are clearly linked to each other.
The tell-tale signs of the monuments being subject to fire, mainly around the outer defences, may well point to some obscure ritual practice rather than to evidence of warfare or hostile actions. In any case, it certainly reminds one of the sub-genre of stories from early Irish literature featuring kings and heroes being burned in buildings and fortifications.