An essential aspect of older forts was their inaccessibility to enemies. The harder it was for foes to get at those inside, the easier it was for defenders to hold out.
It appears that this need was recognized quite early on. A recently discovered fort off the coast of Scotland sits atop a sea stack and can only be accessed using ropes at low tide, according to the BBC.
Archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen needed help from experienced mountaineers to scale the rugged cliffs in order reach the site, which is perched precariously on the top of a sea stack called Dunnicaer, with sheer drops on all sides, according to the Edinburgh Evening News.
“The team found evidence of ramparts, floors and a hearth on the small outcrop,” the publication added. “It is believed the fort would have comprised a timber house or hall, surrounded by an outer defensive rampart built from stone.”
The fort was especially impressive given the materials used in its construction.
“The stone is not from the local area so it must have been quite a feat to get it, and the heavy oak timbers, up to such an inaccessible site,” said lead researcher Gordon Noble, a senior lecturer at the University of Aberdeen.
Results of carbon dating suggest that use of the fort was relatively short-lived, and it is assumed the Pictish communities who inhabited it moved on to the larger site of Dunnottar Castle to the south.
The Picts were descendants of indigenous Iron Age people of northern Scotland.
“Pict” was a blanket term applied to an agglomeration of different people in the northern Scotland, probably with different cultures and languages, according to the website Orkneyjar, which details the heritage of the Orkney Islands.
The word “Pict” means “painted people,” likely referring to the Pictish custom of either tattooing their bodies or embellishing themselves with war paint.
Prior the arrival of the Romans in Britain the Picts were probably fragmented tribes who spent much of their time fighting among themselves.
The Roman threat appears to have forced them together. This allowed the tribes to resist the continental invaders, forcing cooperation in the face of invaders. By the time the Romans departed from Britain in the fifth century AD, the northern tribes had begun to form into what would later become the Pictish Kingdom.
By the 11th century the Pictish identity had been incorporated into the amalgamation of peoples known as “Scots.”
(Top: Researchers seen working atop Dunnicaer sea stacks off coast of Scotland, where an ancient Pictish fort was recently discovered.)