This site was set up to make archaeologists and the public aware of the likelihood of an important battle site between Romans and Iron age Britons in the area of Elgin (Moray). On these iron-age battlefields finds are very rare. So the main aim is to raise public awareness so that even the smallest find that could relate to the battle is reported. This is important as even a small fragment could positively identify the site.
What is Mons Graupius?
Mons Graupius is the name given to a battle in 83 or 84AD between an iron-age people in Scotland called the Caledonii and the Romans. We know about it from the Roman writer Tacitus. Unfortunately, he does not give the exact location other than to say at "Mons Graupius". However, Tacitus gives a lot of details which should be able to identify the site. But so far it has not been found.
Above is the Scottish section of the only map of the period of Mons Graupius produced by a man called Ptolemy. And this is the only means we have of locating the "Caledonii". As you can see the map is very distorted. There are two mains ways to make sense of it.
- The first is that the map is "cut-off" with the highlands largely missing.
- The other is that the map is "turned" through 90 degrees.
Whilst the two different interpretations have been known for centuries, the "turned" hypothesis fell out of favour around the time of a notorious forgery attributed to Richard of Cirencester. Perhaps as a result, the turned hypothesis was discredited and since then most serious work located the various tribes according to the "cut-off" hypothesis. This meant that even as late as 2003 the tribal heartland of the Caledonii was being shown on OS maps around Perthshire & Tayside.
However recently there has been a move toward the "turned hypothesis" spear headed by Alastair Strang. The result as the maps below show, is that the Caledonii heartland moves from Tayside to Inverness.
This in turn means the likely site for Mons Graupius moves from a site south of the Grampian mountains around Tayside to one north of the Grampians around Moray & Elgin.
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- Written by Mike Haseler
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