THE secret history of an East Lothian hill fort has been revealed by archaeologists.
Details of an extensive dig at Broxmouth was conducted in the 1970s shortly before the site was destroyed by a cement works.
It has revealed the community lasted for almost 1000 years before the area was abandoned when the Romans left.
Evidence was found that part of the hill was occupied as early as 3000 BC – earlier than first thought.
Around 600 BC a wooden stockade was built, and as subsequent generations inhabited the site a monumental timber roundhouse, and its auxiliary structures were erected.
The study also revealed it had a violent history.
Fragments of bone which had suffered traumatic injuries from swords and axes were scattered round the site.
The research is published in the latest edition of the magazine British Archaeology.
Professor Ian Armit, who led the team investigating the site, said: “What we found has turned round preconceptions of the site.
“We’ve got a level of detail that would never have been possible before, because of the very large number of high quality radio carbon dates.
“There’s debate about why hill forts were built”, Professor Armit said.
“But the forts also seem to have been built, at least in part, for show. So the entrance is very elaborate, but the ditches and ramparts were pretty useless and had to be constantly rebuilt.”
The archaeologists also uncovered a cemetery at the site, containing a tiny proportion of the residents who must have lived there.
Some of the graves were very elaborate, perhaps suggesting that they contained the remains of high status individuals.
He said the most striking finding was that the site was home to a very settled and stable community, which lasted until about 200 AD.
That “seems to have coincided with the period when the Romans withdrew,” Professor Armit explained.
“Whatever the reason, Broxmouth was never inhabited again.”