Vitrified Forts – Surveying The Damage

Surveying The Damage

In the last 239 years over 70 Vitrified Hill Forts have been discovered in Scotland.

Since John Williams, one of the earliest of British geologists, and author of The Natural History of the Mineral Kingdom, first described these singular ruins in 1777, over 70 examples have been discovered in Scotland.

Some Vitrified Stone locations are neither hill forts nor hills.

Fraoch Eilean

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle Map

Eilean Donan

Vitrified Ruins have also been found across Europe and the Middle East.

Such burned forts range in age from Neolithic to Roman period. – Vitrified Forts

For a long time it was supposed that these forts were peculiar to Scotland; but they are found also in County Londonderry and County Cavan, Ireland; in Upper Lusatia, Bohemia, Silesia, Saxony, and Thuringia; in the provinces on the Rhine, especially in the neighbourhood of the Nahe; in the Ucker Lake; in Brandenburg, where the walls are formed of burnt and smelted bricks; in Hungary; in several places in France, such as Châteauvieux, Péran, La Courbe, Sainte Suzanne, Puy de Gaudy, and Thauron; also rarely in the North of England.

They have not been found in Wales. Broborg is a vitrified hill-fort in Uppland, Sweden.

D’autres murs vitrifiés ont été signalés et étudiés en Allemagne, Bohême, Bosnie, Danemark, Hongrie, Norvège, au Portugal, Silésie, Suède.

Vitrified ruins have been found Scotland, England, Ireland, France, Turkey, Iran, Germany and elsewhere, however, out of some 100 forts identified throughout the world, more than half are located in Scotland. – Vitrification

Broborg hillfort

Vitrified Forts as Anthropogenic Analogues for Assessment of Long-Term Stability of Vitrified Waste in Natural Environments – R. Sjöblom, H. Ecke & E. Brännvall

Click to access QC_Ra_120612_waste_glass.pdf

Château de Sainte-Suzanne

The Vitrified Hill Fort of El Gasco [Spain] is an extraordinary example because the vitrified pumice contains the first deposit of Ferroan Ringwoodite “found on Earth”.

Recent studies on the El Gasco pumice confirm its origin from partial melting of the substrate rocks (Late Proterozoic Domo Extremeño Group), and allow to discard the possibility of a volcanic origin.

The large volume of pumice, and the absence of metallic ore in the surroundings, allow to discard the possibility of lightning strike fusion (fulgurite) or metallurgy (smelt slag).

The hypothesis of melting of the substrate by a meteorite impact has also been refuted.

A reassessment of all available information suggests that the pumice originated from vitrification, a process observed in human constructions made of wood and stone which have been destroyed by fire.

Archaeological remains from the Iron Age are present at and near the site, suggesting that the source rock originally formed part of a construction related with a Celtic hill-fort, which must be confirmed by ongoing archaeological studies.

This is the first, and so far the only, vitrified fort identified in Spain.

It is most probable that the traditional name of the hill (Pico del Castillo, or Castle Peak) is inherited from its former ancient use, still preserved in the local toponymy.

The Pumice of El Gasco (Cáceres): Geological And Archaeological Heritage
IV Congreso Internacional sobre Patrimonio Geológico y Minero
Utrillas 2003 S-1, C-08, pp. 205-212

Click to access Utrillas2003-205.pdf

Pumice - El Gasco, Cáceres, Spain

Ferroan ringwoodite was recently identified by XRD in pumiceous rocks from northern Cáceres province (Extremadura, western Spain), and confirmed by electron microprobe analysis.

An estimated volume exceeding 50 m3 has already been extracted for industrial use and local craftsmanship.

Ferroan ringwoodite can form at lower temperature and pressure than normal (Mg) ringwoodite: around 1200ºC and 6 GPa for the more iron-rich compositions.

El Gasco is the first location where ferroan ringwoodite (iron silicate spinel) is found on Earth.

An Alternative Hypothesis For The Origin of Ferroan Ringwoodite
In The Pumice of El Gasco (Cáceres, Spain) – E. Díaz-Martínez and J. Ormö
Lunar and Planetary Science XXXIV (2003)

Click to access 1318.pdf

Ringwoodite is a high-pressure phase of Mg2SiO4 formed at high temperatures and pressures of the Earth’s mantle between 525 and 660 km (326 and 410 mi) depth.

In Portugal there is a vitrified dolmen.

The Late Bronze Age settlement of Passo Alto includes a defensive complex with partial vitrification of the wall rampart.

The temperatures achieved were very high, probably exceeding 1100ºC.

Vitrification of fortified settlements in Portugal was first identified at Monte Novo, near Évora (Burgess et al., 1999, and references therein), and there are also descriptions of vitrification at a dolmen of Neolithic Age near Viseu (Abrunhosa et al., 1995).

Evidence for Wall Vitrification at the Late Bronze Age Settlement of Passo Alto
(Vila Verde de Ficalho, Serpa, Portugal)
Enrique Díaz-Martínez, António M. M. Soares, Peter Kresten and Liudmila Glazovskaya
Revista Portuguesa de Arqueologia – Volume 8 – Número 1 – 2005

Click to access 7.pdf

Overall, the mainstream has made slow progress identifying Vitrified Ruins in Europe.

Archaeological sites in Europe with vitrified walls

There are probably many more Vitrified Ruins waiting to be discovered.

Sweden has many forts – more than 1 000 are registered.

Most of them are thought to have been construeted during the Migratiem Period (Ambrosiani 1978), but only a few have been excavated.

On the Swedish mainland, the forts are hill-forts, built on geographically favourable sites.

The Swedish record on vitrified forts is meagre.

Swedish Vitrified Forts – A Reconnaissance Study
Peter Kresten and Björn Ambrosiani
Fornvännen – 87 – 1992 – Journal of Swedish Antiquarian Research

And other Vitrified Sites are being discovered around the world.

Perhaps there’s a reason these Vitrified Ruins are being left to moulder away in a dusty corner of the academic archives


While my workmen were busily engaged in digging in different localities in Babylon, I went to Birs Nimroud, and placed a few gangs of workmen to excavate in four different spots.

The ruins of the town, variably named Borsippa, Temple of Belus, Birs Nimroud, and Tower of Babel, rising, as it were, a high mountain out of the sea, struck me with greater astonishment than anything that I had seen of ancient devastations, and I could not but look with wonder upon the seeming supernatural vitrifications of a large part of the still standing brick-piles, that can be seen for about twenty-five miles around.

Different travelers have attributed the cause of the vitrification to either lightning, or extreme power of artificial heat; but it seemed to me, on examining the different masses, that neither the work of man nor the common electric fluid could have caused that extent of vitrification.

I have been trying to elicit, through scientific gentlemen in England, the cause of the vitrification; but I have, as yet, found no one who could explain the mystery satisfactorily.

Indeed, on referring to two good authorities on the effect of lightning upon such a massive structure, I was told that electric fluid could not cause such deep vitrification.

Benjamin of Tudela makes the assertion that the “heavenly fire which struck the tower split it to its very foundation,” and my late friend, Mr. Loftus, gives the opinion of a “talented companion who originated the idea when they examined the Birs Nimroud together, that, in order to render these edifices more durable, the Babylonians submitted them, when erected, to the heat of a furnace!”

The former authority did not explain on what record or idea he founded his allegation.

He might have quoted a tradition which existed then in the country when he visited the ruin, about seven hundred years ago.

As for the opinion of Mr. Loftus’s friend, it is untenable, because it is against common sense that a huge tower as that of Birs Nimroud could, in the time of its glory, be subjected to artificial heat after it was built.

The tower must have been at least two hundred feet high, and about one hundred and fifty feet square, and to build a furnace to envelop it would, be just like trying to cover a solid mass equal in size to the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, with one huge furnace, and subjecting it to artificial heat for the purpose of vitrifying it!

One-third of the tower is still standing in its original position, and not a sign of fire or vitrification is visible in any part of it; but the large boulders, which are vitrified, are scattered all about the place, and look as if they do not belong to the same structure.

Some of these must be between ten and fifteen cubic feet square, and the vitrification is so complete throughout, that when I tried to have a large piece broken to bring to the British Museum, I failed to do so until I engaged a competent mason, who managed to break me two pieces after having blunted half a dozen of his iron tools.

Asshur and the land of Nimrod – Hormuzd Rassam – 1897

This entry was posted in British History, Catastrophism, Geology, Heinsohn Horizon, History, Vitrified Hill Forts. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Vitrified Forts – Surveying The Damage

  1. Louis Hissink says:

    Tim, have you come across any identification of the rock the bricks and/or tower were made of?

    “One-third of the tower is still standing in its original position, and not a sign of fire or vitrification is visible in any part of it; but the large boulders, which are vitrified, are scattered all about the place, and look as if they do not belong to the same structure.”

    I should write something on this as well. Sigh, no end to this topic………………

  2. CW says:

    First I’ve heard of this phenomenon. What about the round towers of Ireland? Any signs of vitrification there, either in the towers themselves or in the surrounding sites?

    • malagabay says:

      Apparently Ireland has two vitrified forts – but I’m not sure Tullyard Hill is one of them – it needs more research… either way its in the neighbourhood of Drumbo tower.

      According to the Ulster Visitation-book, preserved in Trinity College, Dublin, the tower of Drumbo was in a ruinous state as early as 1622.

      Though forming part of the Rector’s freehold, the church-yard is now in the occupation of the Presbyterian parishioners, who have built their Meeting- house on this site, the church of the Establishment being at Ballylesson.

      In the same neighbourhood are two other remarkable monuments of antiquity ; the Giant’s Ring, and the vitrified fort on Tullyard hill.

      Notices of the round towers of Ulster by Getty, Edmund

  3. Jim Coyle says:

    Is there any way to gauge the age of the vitrification? Or has it been done already?

  4. oldbrew says:

    Has anyone taken a geiger counter to any of these sites?

  5. THX1138 says:

    Well, of course, the best candidate would be celestial plasma exchange.

    The large volume of pumice, and the absence of metallic ore in the surroundings, allow to discard the possibility of lightning strike fusion (fulgurite) or metallurgy (smelt slag).

    Here, lightning is dismissed out of hand, but plasma from, say, a comet or cometary fragment is not considered. We have a recent record of “bolt from the blue” lightning which destroyed the shuttle Columbia:

    The reporter claimed:

    “In the critical shot, a glowing purple rope of light corkscrews down toward the plasma trail, appears to pass behind it, then cuts sharply toward it from below. As it merges with the plasma trail, the streak itself brightens for a distance, then fades.”

    The photos were also privately circulated to scientists and appeared on a few websites before being taken down for copyright reasons. One scientist argued that the lighting hitting the Columbia was an electrical discharge from the ionosphere, proving the existence of ‘mega lightning’ in the ionosphere. This is a phenomenon that conventional models of electrical activity in the upper atmosphere do not support.

    The scientist nevertheless concluded:

    “conditions in the ionosphere led to a powerful lightning discharge to Columbia – a rare “bolt from the blue” – which may have damaged a critical component or surface of the space shuttle. The lightning would be practically silent in the thin atmosphere and it would burn like a plasma torch. And insulating material, like the shuttle tiles or their adhesive, may shatter or explode when struck by lightning.”

    Fossils are attributed to slow mineralization over millions of years, but celestial thunderbolts make more sense, considering the state that most fossils are found in. The fossilization would happen almost instantaneously, as would the vitrification of stone. High voltage electricity can change any stone or object from one form to another in the superheated, high pressure environment of a “z-pinch” in a Birkeland current filament.

    • Louis Hissink says:

      Fossilisation to millions of years……..just how biological decay and putrefaction could be suspended for such long periods of time seems routinely glossed over, or explained away as due to the necessity of having been buried in an anaerobic environment (oxygen poor).

      Point is that no where today are fossils being slowly mineralised, apart from the rapid mineralisation of some unlucky tourist who fell into one of the Yellowstone National Park hot springs.

      The overriding mechanism is to stop biological decay and putrefaction, almost instantly. This is a taboo topic.

  6. THX1138 says:

    Please ignore the speculation about an “advanced plasma weapon” if you read the link I supplied as a citation, I hadn’t read all the way down before I posted it. But “mega lightning” is very feasible and likely.

  7. oldbrew says:

    Another one for the collection.

    ‘The material culture and layout of Trusty’s Hill is so closely similar to other early medieval royal sites in Scotland that there is little doubt now that Trusty’s Hill was once a royal stronghold of the Britons of south-west Scotland. The vitrification of the ramparts coincides with the destruction of the interior of the site and the end of the occupation of this hillfort.’

  8. malagabay says:

    Thanks Oldbrew.

    “The excavation of Trusty’s Hill, which lies in Galloway in south-west Scotland, revealed that in the early seventh century AD this hillfort was deliberately destroyed and subjected to such sustained burning that the timber-laced stone rampart circling its summit was vitrified.”

  9. oldbrew says:

    The ‘popular press’ likes the story.

    If the residents were Picts they were a good way out of their heartlands of northern and eastern Scotland.

    • Louis Hissink says:

      Those petroglyphs seem much like Peratt’s plasma instabilities that have been elsewhere provisionally dated ~ 10,000 years BP. However I would be game to put that event as the RTE (Roman Termination Event), along with the Pleistocene ice age extinction.

    • malagabay says:

      Some very interesting connections…

      The Picts were a tribal confederation of peoples who lived in what is today eastern and northern Scotland during the Late Iron Age and Early Medieval periods. They are thought to have been ethnolinguistically Celtic.

      Where they lived and what their culture was like can be inferred from the geographical distribution of brochs, Brittonic place name elements, and Pictish stones.

      Picts are attested to in written records from before the Roman conquest of Britain to the 10th century, when they are thought to have merged with the Gaels.

      The Aberlemno Serpent Stone, Class I Pictish stone with Pictish symbols, showing (top to bottom) the serpent, the double disc and Z-rod and the mirror and comb
      Catfish Jim and the soapdish at English Wikipedia

      Animal head from St Ninian’s Isle Treasure
      Wikimedia – Johnbod

      The Whitecleuch Chain, high status Pictish Silver chain, one of ten known to exist, dating from between 400 and 800 AD.

      Silver necklace, Pictish. On loan from the National Museum of Scotland.
      Photographed at the Exhibition: Celts and Scandinavians, artistic encounters, 7th-12th century, 1st October 2008 – January 12, 2009, Musée National du Moyen-Âge – Thermes et hôtel de Cluny

      Wikimedia – F Lamiot

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