Over the last four years work has been progressing at Burnswark Hill in east Dumfriesshire to re-investigate previous assumptions about this enigmatic site which consists of a 17 acre Iron Age Hillfort straddled by two very unusual Roman camps.

Burnswark Hill

Until the 1960s the site was interpreted as a place of major conflict between native and Roman (not least because of the profusion of Roman weaponry found there) but since then a suggestion that it was a Roman practice work has grown into a fully developed non-conflict hypothesis (Breeze 2011). This hypothesis has been challenged by two Glasgow archaeologists (Campbell 2003 and Keppie 2009) who suggest that the finds and the earthworks represent an episode of significant warfare.

In an attempt to shed more light on this enigma, the Burnswark Project, under the auspices of the Scottish Borders-based Trimontium Trust, has benefited from a number of novel approaches to glean new facts about the potential reasons for what was clearly intense Roman military activity. The results of field survey, excavation and metallurgy have been fascinating and at times truly surprising and have given new insights into the behaviour of the Roman army in Scotland.

On Thursday, October 19th, 2017, Dr John Reid will be presenting these amazing findings, which challenge the previously accepted interpretation of the site, in Glasgow Archaeological Society's first lecture of the 2017/18 Lecture Programme, titled The Battle for Burnswark Hill. The lecture begins at 7:30pm in the Boyd Orr Building, University Avenue, Glasgow University.


About Dr John Reid

After initially proposing to study archaeology at Glasgow University in the 1970s, Dr John Reid changed course to medicine in 1974 and went on to become a diagnostic radiologist specialising in diseases of the heart and lungs. Dr Reid then became the consultant cardiothoracic radiologist for Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and then associate medical director of Borders General Hospital, Melrose. Latterly, he was the radiology specialty adviser to the Chief Medical Officer of Scotland.

John Reid at BurnswarkAdditionally, Dr Reid also spent a period as an adviser to the International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations in Vienna and also spent a year in Boston Massachusetts before returning to his first love of archaeology in 2012. For the last ten years Dr Reid has been the chairman of the Trimontium Trust (a Roman History Society) in the Scottish Borders; the Trust has a very active education, research and outreach programme and also runs a small independent museum based in the Ormiston Institute in Melrose. It has recently been successful in a bid for HLF funding for a £1.2 million renovation and extension of the museum.

Dr Reid's primary area of interest is in the Roman occupation of Scotland, as well as the ballistic capabilities of the Roman Army. As part of his focus on these subjects, Dr Reid has devised and coordinated the innovative programme of investigations (Trimontium Trust/HLF funded) at Burnswark Hill in Dumfriesshire for the last three years. This has been in partnership with Dumfries Museums, the Mouswald Trust and DGNHAS. The programme has just completed its third season of survey and excavation, working in partnership with Dr Reid's principle collaborator, Dumfries and Galloway county archaeologist, Andrew Nicholson.

During the course of his work at Burnswark Hill, Dr Reid has authored the recent Current Archaeology article, ‘Battle for Burnswark,’ and also has a publication in advanced preparation on sling bullets of the Roman Imperial Army.