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An archaeological analysis of later prehistoric settlement and society in Perthshire and Stirlingshire

Davies, Mairi Helen (2006) An archaeological analysis of later prehistoric settlement and society in Perthshire and Stirlingshire. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis presents the first ever synthesis of the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age in Perthshire and Stirlingshire. It draws on evidence from excavations, field survey and aerial survey, the latter two largely undertaken by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. It is clear from this study that the key to appreciating the structure of the data within this region is a sound understanding of the history of research. Several key players are identified in the history of antiquarian research in the area, with Christian Maclagan and David Christian emerging as pioneers in field recording. However, aerial and ground survey, particularly since the mid-1970s has been crucial in altering the perceived nature of the archaeological resource, with the density of known upland settlement increasing dramatically, and numerous plough-truncated sites being identified in lowland cropmarks. The geology, geomorphology and soils of the study area is characterised, and factors that might have affected how later prehistoric people interacted with and perceived their environment are identified. These include sea level change in the Forth Valley in the Iron Age, climatic deterioration in the Early Iron Age and major forest clearance and increased cultivation in the Late Iron Age. A mosaic of vegetation types can be envisaged for the later prehistoric landscape, which seems to have opened out in the last few hundred years of the first millennium ВС, perhaps to cope with an increased population. Analysis of existing excavated data on plant macrofossils provided further detail here, suggesting that such crops were grown and processed in both the upland and lowland zones. While the absence of significant quantities of cereal pollen need not conclusively imply a pastoral dimension to the later prehistoric economy, a reassessment of zoo-archaeological evidence made it quite clear that domestic cattle and sheep/goat were in use, in addition to domestic horses and wild animals. Following this, a critical review of the chronological framework is provided, followed by reclassification of the various site types known. It proves possible to assign broad date ranges to the different types of site identified. This new classification is used as the basis for an assessment of dating and function of these sites. The case studies of Stirling, south-east Perthshire and north-east Perthshire enable an assessment of site morphology and settlement patterns on a more local level, armed with a regionally-specific chronological and functional framework. These various lines of enquiry are then drawn together to provide a narrative describing the nature of later prehistoric settlement and society. The study area is then put into context, through comparison with the evidence from adjacent areas of Eastern Scotland. The previous models, which emphasised the differences between settlement, society and economy in areas north and south of the Forth, as a long-term structural feature of Scottish archaeology have been shown to be erroneous. It is not until the Late Iron Age that marked differences in the settlement of Stirlingshire and Perthshire can be observed. A conscious decision was made in this study to move away from the status-dominated assumptions of previous accounts. When we look at the Iron Age of Stirlingshire in a chronologically dynamic way, we see rather than the no-man's land described by previous authors, or the highly stratified society envisaged by those who assume that the lowland brochs are high-status, a wealthy area with a high enough population to necessitate large-scale woodland clearance by the final years of the first millennium ВС. In Perthshire too, both highland and lowland, there is little evidence of a social hierarchy at any time. The contextual, temporally dynamic approach to later prehistoric remains taken here has enabled us to gain a much more firmly-based view of settlement and society in Perthshire and Stirlingshire.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2006
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2011 09:52

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