THE remains of a Roman mini-fort has been discovered near a Scottish school. 

It was built next to the Antonine Wall, the frontier the Romans constructed across central Scotland and it was believed that the fort had been lost to the mists of time. 

However, a geophysical survey by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) in an unassuming field near Carleith Primary School in Duntocher revealed details undiscovered for hundreds of years. 

The announcement of the discovery in West Dunbartonshire comes on World Heritage Day with the Antoine Wall one of Scotland’s six Unesco World Heritage sites.

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Commenting on the discovery, Riona McMorrow, deputy head of world heritage at HES said: “It is great to see how our knowledge of history is growing as new methods give us fresh insights in the past. 

“Archaeology is often partly detective work, and the discovery at Carleith is a nice example of how an observation made 300 years ago and new technology can come together to add to our understanding.”

Previous excavations to find the fortlet proved unsuccessful, but new technology has allowed HES’s archaeological survey team to find the buried remains. 

The fortlet was referenced in 1707 by antiquarian Robert Sibbald, who wrote he had seen it in the area around Carleith Farm.

Excavation teams looked in the 1970s and 80s although the exact location remained unknown. 

The survey team have now employed gradiometry – a surveying technique to look under the soil without the need for excavation. 

The method measures small changes in the earth’s magnetic field to detect archaeological features otherwise invisible from the ground surface. 

This technique was able to identify the stone base of the fortlet, which remains buried underground. On top of this base, turf would have been laid to build a rampart about two metres high.

This newly discovered fortlet would have been part of several fortlets along the Antonine Wall.

The National: A new method helped uncover the forgotten fortA new method helped uncover the forgotten fort (Image: HES)

It would have been occupied by 10 to 12 Roman soldiers who were stationed at a larger fort nearby, likely to be Duntocher, and manned the fort for a week at a time before being replaced by another detachment.

The fortlet would have been made up of two small wooden buildings to house the soldiers staying there and will have been used for the 20 years (142 CE – 162 CE) that the Antonine Wall was defended as the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire.

This discovery has led to HES reviewing the site’s designation to ensure the fortlet is recognised and protected as part of the Antonine Wall.