Time runs out for ancient hillfort as new £118m bridge over the Tay draws near

The search is on for traces of ancient life at a hillfort near Perth before it is demolished to make way for a new £118m road bridge over the River Tay.

Broxy Kennels, which stands over the river just north of the city, is believed to have been used from at least from the Bronze Age, which began in Scotland around 4,500 years ago.

Now, the hillfort will soon disappear from the landscape as construction on the new Cross Tay Link Road gets underway this summer.

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An artist' impression of the £118m bridge that will be built over the River Tay north of Perth. PIC: Contributed.

The bridge will cross the river just north of the Inveralmond Roundabout with a four-mile stretch of road to link the A94 and the A9 just north of Scone

The route has been designed to reduce congestion and pollution in Perth City Centre with archaeologists now working to retrieve as much information as possible from the hillfort before it goes.

Sophie Nicol, of the Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust and curator with the Cross Tay Link Road, said Broxy Kennels remained “unusual” given it was not nationally protected as a scheduled monument.

Ms Nicol said: “It’s an unusual monument. It may not be nationally protected but to my mind it is as important as any other hillfort and it needs to be treated as such.

Archaeologists survey Broxy Kennels, an ancient hillfort just north of Perth, which will be largely demolished to make way for the new bridge. PIC: PKHT.

“The bulk of the hillfort is coming out. Rarely do you get the opportunity to do a really, really good excavation of a hillfort. They are not excavated at this level very often. They are not under development very often.”

Ms Nicol said the general area was “dense” in history, from the Prehistoric period right through to the Medieval era.

She added: “Historically, the river has been a really important part of settlement and power, from the transportation of goods to keeping an eye on what people were doing. The River Tay was massively important.”

The location for the bridge was chosen to avoid the known archaeology, including the Gold Castle prehistoric settlement to the east of the river in Strathtay to the Grassy Walls Roman Camp near Old Scone, she added.

But as time runs out for Broxy Kennels, archaeologists are moving in to create a full record of life there. Burnt cereal grains found in an underground storage chamber – or souterrain – are believed to date form the Late Bronze Age to early Iron Age, with pottery sherds also coming from the same period.

Ms Nicol added: "We are looking at potentially multiple phases of occupation. We will be trying to establish the first settlement there and how it developed over time.”

GUARD Archaeology has been contracted to excavate the site with a number of archaeology students from the University of Highlands and Islands to assist. The bridge is being developed by BAM Nuttall which has “really taken the excavation on board,” Ms Nicol said.

Major Bronze Age finds have been found in the Perth area over time. In 2006, PKHT excavated and recovered a Late Bronze Age logboat from the Tay estuary near the city. A number of Bronze Age swords have also been found in the water. The prestigious weapons were possibly deposited in the river as offerings to the gods.

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