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area around the Firth of Forth, on the South coast, the area of
the Lothians, belonged to a tribe which the Romans called the
Votadini. The Votadini seemed to have been singled out, occupying
a unique if not bizarre position with the Romans. They apparently
welcomed the Roman invaders, who seem to have returned the favour.
Indeed, the Romans apparently never really “invaded”
the Votadini at all. If anything, they left the tribe largely
the way it was. Even more bizarre: the so-called Traprain treasure,
discovered on Traprain Law, the “capital” of the Votadini,
consists of a hoard of Roman silverware. Archaeologists accept
that the Romans paid the Votadini. Why?
situation south of the Firth of Forth, on the Eastern side of
Scotland, was complex. The Votadini, or to give them back their
own name, the Gododdin, ruled the Lothians and the coastline as
far south as Berwick-upon-Tweed, where the river Tweed made for
a natural border. Inland lived the Selgovae tribe. Driving from
the Lothians to Melrose, the A68 follows the Roman road running
North. Along the river Tweed lay Trimontium and the Eildon Hills.
It is this river that continues eastward, before reaching the
North Sea at Berwick-upon-Tweed. The Borders, by its name, is
a border area, between Scotland and England; the Tweed is in both
Scotland and England.
Though Traprain Law is the most famous hill fort of the Gododdin,
there was another one, to the south of their territory, relatively
close to the Eildon Hills, where there was a Selgovae hill fort.
The Gododdin’s hill fort was located on Yeavering Bell,
near the confluence of the rivers Glen and Till. All three hill
forts are remarkable for their size: they are gigantic compared
to other hill forts in the area, underlining their importance.
Yeavering Bell is the largest hill fort in Northumberland, enclosing
some 5.2 hectares. Unlike Traprain Law or the Eildon Hills, Yeavering
Bell does not stick out from its surroundings. The site is remote,
the road at its foot barely used. Climbing to 1,182 feet, it is
far higher than the other hill forts and from its summit, it offers
the same spectacular views of the surroundings, in this case the
Northumberland hills. It summit is a broad double peaked bulk,
which dominates the north Cheviot foothills. Like Traprain Law
and the Eildon Hills, it was formed in the Devonian period, some
350 million years ago in the violent volcanic eruptions which
created the entire Cheviot range.
it is important to note that its position might seem out of the
way, even a modern traveller realises it is far closer to everything
than its remote aspect would at first suggest. As archaeologist
Clive Waddington summarised, the Milfield basin forms the largest
physically contained alluvial flood basin in Northumberland. It
also straddles two key communication routes running north-south
and east-west with the entrance to Glendale forming the junction
of these two axes. Immediately overlooking this naturally defined
cross-roads is the most prominent hill of the northern Cheviot
rim: Yeavering Bell.
it possible that Yeavering Bell had sacred origins? The name is
P-Celtic, being originally Ad Gefrin, which translates as Goat
Hill. We know that the Gyre Carling was associated with goats,
and as she was linked with primeval hills, are we confronted here
with another primeval hill?
There is archaeological evidence as well. Ad Gefrin, in the valley,
began as a Neolithic cremation cemetery. The Coupland henge was
orientated towards the twin peaks of the Bell; there are two henges
in the Milfield basin, the crop marks of which can still be seen;
along the banks of the river Glen is a standing stone, known as
the Battle Stone; the eastern peak has a modern walkers’
cairn on top, but there was originally a Neolithic burial cairn
on this site. This is all evidence that the area was a sacred
landscape, with the Bell as its focus.
It is its twin-peaked shape that probably made it a likely candidate
as a sacred hill. Such twin peaked hills are known to have been
identified as sacred; it resembles other “breast shaped
hills” such as the “Paps of Jura” and the Devil’s
Gap. Furthermore, even though Yeavering Bell is not a “lone
hill”, it does stand apart from the other Cheviot Hills.
When viewed from the lower lying ground of the basin, it stands
out most markedly against the southern horizon. Therefore, positioned
at a key communication junction, and in the lee of the most prominent
hilltop, Old Yeavering (Gefrin) clearly occupies a rather special
place in the dramatic landscape of the Milfield basin.
I was preparing a field trip to Yeavering Bell, I had to locate
it precisely on the map. At the same time, I wanted to map its
relationship with the other two “capitals” in the
region, Traprain Law and Eildon Hill. I literally drew lines on
a map and it was to my utmost surprise that the angle between
the line running from Eildon Hill to Traprain Law and Eildon Hill
to Yeavering Bell was a perfect 90 degrees. I was so struck by
this, that I drew it again, this time on another map, with a different
Of course, plotting such items on maps is bound to contain some
error, but even if it varies between 87 or 93 degrees, the discovery
– I felt – was stunning. There are many hills, but
these three hills were described as special in the literature,
specifically because of their gigantic hill forts on top. Furthermore,
they were all important at the same time, from the Neolithic well
into the Iron Age. Two were operated by the same tribe, and the
third, Eildon Hill, was the capital of the neighbouring tribe,
The next question on my mind was: was this “triangle”
the reason why these three natural hills, enigmatic hills at that,
had been chosen as sacred hills?
discoveries are fraught with problems. Yes, it is a coincidence,
and the question is whether our forefathers were aware of its
“oddity” or whether we, 20th century educated modern
men, see “things” that only 20th century educated
modern men would see. Furthermore, the picture is complicated
by the fact that when people have reported such potential discoveries
in the past thirty years, the question on the observer’s
mind may well be whether or not it involved extraterrestrial involvement,
for we all “know” the Gododdin were stupid and could
not have known many of the things that we know. How could the
Gododdin have known about trigonometry? ET is phoned to solve
Though I have no theoretical objections to extraterrestrial suggestions,
I do tend to think that the presentation of an enigma, or something
that needs explaining, needs to be explained in terrestrial terms,
rather than immediately turn to the “deus ex machina”,
i.e. parading ET or Atlanteans. It is, I feel, an easy answer
to difficult questions and rather than explain things, it calls
more questions into existence. Why would aliens or Atlanteans
be interested in telling the locals to create a triangle of hill
forts? It would definitely not help aliens, and though it would
be nice of our Atlantean forefathers to leave such a legacy, they
could have done better things with their time, I feel.
let’s not run away too quickly. First of all, the question
needs to be asked whether it was a coincidence. The answer seems
to be no. It is a fact the Celtic tribes held these three hill-tops
sacred and constructed defences on them. When you map those in
the landscape, and you discover that lines between them form a
perfect 90-degree triangle, it is hard to believe that this is
chance or coincidence. Furthermore, the “triangle”
is not just some random drawing on a landscape. The Traprain Law-Eildon
Hill line formed the major axis of their territory, largely marking
the border between the Selgovae and the Gododdin. Furthermore,
the Eildon Hill-Yeavering Bell line formed the “first line
of defence” against any invader from the south. Yeavering
Bell was the southernmost fort of the Gododdin, and like Eildon
Hill, it was built to ward off invaders from the south.
All three mark important points in the landscape: we have just
observed the “crossroads” visible from Yeavering Bell;
Trimontium shows the importance of the main road running north;
from Traprain Law, you have a clear view of the coastline to the
north, as well as the A1, which sits on top of a Roman road.
The Traprain Law-Yeavering Bell line seemed to be redundant, but
in fact, it is not. The three sides describe an area contained
within the triangle, which could be seen as “sacred space”.
In pre-Celtic times, it might have been further evidence of “sacred
landscape design”, marking out a sacred area belonging to
a tribe. Thus the Traprain Law-Yeavering Bell “frontier”
might mark the eastern border of their territory, even though
I would argue that this was an artificial substitute for the natural
border of the shore.
But the line was not redundant. The A1 always kept just outside
this line and, most obviously, is literally within hundreds of
yards north of Traprain Law. As such, it seemed that the A1 was
deliberately located to remain outside the area enclosed by this
triangle. Coincidence? Perhaps, but again, I think not.
mentioned, the A1 generally follows Roman roads, which in their
turn normally followed existing prehistoric tracks. What was remarkable
was that Dere Street, the A68, did enter the sacred territory,
though only “just”; largely the A1 and the A68 reinforced
the “Gododdin Triangle”, to give it a name. The area
between both roads was largely the area described by the “Gododdin
Triangle”. It overlaps with the area known to have been
the Gododdin territory.
Coincidence or not? It is a fact that the ninety-degree angle
is there; the question is whether our ancestors knew about it
or not. Though they did not have space photography at their disposal,
it is possible that in prehistoric times, when the Megalithic
People mapped the sacred landscape, they did possess skills to
measure the land. The question of whether they knew the properties
of right-angled triangles is also important. Thom, in his analysis
of stone circles and other megalithic monuments, stated that certain
designs, specifically ellipses, flattened circles and egg-shaped
circles, were constructed by using field geometry and surveying
techniques, including the knowledge of right-angled triangles.
Though there is an obvious difference in scale between working
with such triangles over a few metres and over dozens of miles,
there is also a commonality: stone circles defined a sacred space;
from all accounts, it is clear that the Gododdin territory was
equally considered to be as sacred space. Could it be that in
the latter’s definition, a triangle – a triangulation
– incorporating the main and highest peaks of the region