Cultural boundaries

Celtic Civilization

The mass of tribal names may mask even deeper divisions. There are strong hints, for example, of a cultural break somewhere between the Firths of Forth and Tay. The distinct settlement patterns, with open villages and souterrains to the north and enclosed settlements and forts to the south, have been discussed in previous chapters and presumably reflect differences in the basic organization of society. Artefact types, too. seem often to have been confined either to the north or south of this...

The attempt at cotiqucst

The Celts Why The Romans Left Scotland

Most of our knowledge of the first Roman advance into Scotland, during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty, comes from a biography of Agricola written by his son-in-law,Tacitus, an account seemingly based on the first-hand accounts of Agricola and his military colleagues. Although exasperatingly short 011 descriptions of peoples and places, this account is invaluable in setting out the basic story of these campaigns and the flavour of the times. The routes taken by the...

The South and East

It is more difficult for the general reader to access the literature for the Iron Age of south and east Scotland. The Royal Commission volume on south-east Perthshire includes a now-classic survey of a rich lowland Scottish landscape containing many Iron Age sites. Dennis Harding's edited volume includes many studies of individual sites and areas of debate for the south and east, while my own paper assesses the impact of more recent work Armit, I 1999.'Life after Hownam the Iron Age in...

Forts and enclosures

Eildon Hill Fort

The hilltops, knolls and headlands of southern and eastern Scotland, and much of northern England, are littered with the desolate remains of forts and enclosures apparently mute testimony to the violent nature of Celtic societies. However, to say-that the Scottish Iron Age is characterized by hillforts is to simplify complex variations of geography, chronology, morphology, function and topography. Somewhere in the bewildering diversity of enclosure types one feels there must be patterns waiting...

New kingdoms

Celtic Material Culture

Throughout the Roman period the indigenous peoples of Scotland seem to have undergone a process of gradual amalgamation. As we have seen in chapter 6, Ptolemy's Geography. dating from the mid-second century AD. but based on slightly earlier sources, lists numerous tribes in Scotland, including twelve north of the Forth. By the end of the second century only two tribes are mentioned in this area, the Caledonians and the Maeatae, while Cassius Dio, writing in the early part of the third century...

Celts in conflict

Scotland Modern Culture

Roman writers had every reason to pronounce the Celts warlike, reckless and incapable of self-government. By doing so they could portray successive Roman advances as a positive contribution to the spread of civilized values. Archaeology has often seemed to bear out their words. After all, the classic monument of the Iron Age is surely the hillfort, stoutly defended by rampart and ditch. Indeed, this first appearance of defensive architecture was long thought to herald the arrival of Celtic...

Septimius Sever lis

The aggressive actions of the Maeatae and Caledonians seem to have caused disruption on the northern frontier throughout the end of the second and beginning of the third centuries AD. As well as the sparse documentary references, there is some archaeological evidence for the destabilization of southern Scotland at around this time. The signs of widespread settlement in the Cheviots, for example, seem to disappear, leaving what the archaeologist Peter Hill has called 'tableaux of desertion,...

Roundhouse cosmology

Ritual aspects of Iron Age houses are not restricted to special or votive deposits. Right across Britain, for example, patterns can be detected in the orientation of roundhouse entrances the majority being set towards the east or south-east, perhaps to face the rising sun (particularly at equinox and mid-winter solstice) which may have been identified with birth and renewal. It has been suggested that, as in some societies today, the prevailing cosmology or world view determined the proper way...

Bronze Age aristocracies

An important hoard of bronzework found quite by chance at Corrymuckloch in Perthshire provides an insight into this Later Bronze Age world (8). In 1995, lying among the upcast from a drain through a peat bog, was found an array of fine bronzes three socketed axes, a broken sword blade and a unique handled bowl or ladle, all dating to around 800 BC. Such hoards of metalwork are characteristic of the Later Bronze Age in Scotland and indeed much of the rest of Britain and Ireland. Although richer...

Scotland on the eve of invasion

Roman Invasion Scotland

The momentous events of AD 79 could have come as no great surprise to the Scottish tribes, since the power of Rome had been extending gradually but inexorably northwards for more than thirty years, ever since the Emperor Claudius' troops landed in the south of England in AD 43. Stories of Roman military prowess had probably been in circulation for even longer, at least since Caesar's conquest of Gaul, and attempted subjugation of southern England, a century earlier. Rome, then, had been a...

Iron Age people

Iron Age Scotland

Before looking at the range of Iron Age houses it is useful to consider the people who built and inhabited them. The general lack of burial evidence for most of the first millennium BC makes it hard to reconstruct even the basic characteristics of Iron Age communities, such as life expectancy, infant mortality, age and gender structure. In the absence of such information, however, it is worth making a few general points about pre-industrial populations based on what is currently the...

The end of the roundhouse

By the second century AD most wheelhouses seem to have either fallen into decay or been remodelled as cellular buildings reminiscent of those of earlier centuries. Similar cellular buildings also came to dominate the Orcadian broch villages as the inhabitants gradually abandoned the maintenance of the broch towers themselves. Further south it seems that substantial roundhouses had mostly fallen out of use several centuries earlier, certainly prior to the Roman period, by which time smaller,...

Lost beliefs

Modern western societies are a poor model for understanding prehistoric religion. For most of us, religion is a clearly demarcated part of life. But in many non-western societies it is, as the ethnologist William Goode said, 'not something which is only believed it is lived. For the Iron Age Celts, religion, ritual and superstition would have permeated all aspects of life, from building a house or ploughing a field to making a journey or exchanging gifts. Like many farming peoples, for...

Art

There is a vast literature devoted to Celtic art. The following volumes represent a short introduction Stead , a more extended discussion of the European material Megaw and Megaw , and a weighty tome on the detailed study of insular art J Pe - Jope, E 2000. Early Celtic Art in the British Isles. Oxford Clarendon Press. Megaw, R and Megaw,V 1989. CclticArt From its Beginnings to the Book of Kclls. London Thanies and Hudson. Stead, I 1985. CclticArt. London British Museum Press. There is little...

The Celts tinder Rome

So, for around ten or twenty years towards the end of the first century AD and perhaps twenty-five years in the second, southern Scotland formed part of an empire, stretching south to Egypt, west to Portugal, and east to Mesopotamia 82 . Within this enormous area certain groups of people had considerable mobility for example, at the upper end of the scale, governors and lesser officials were posted tar from their places of origin, and. at the lower end. auxiliary troops were expected to serve...

Breaking new ground

Souterrains Scotland

We are still some way from being able to date the period of agricultural intensification that led to the appearance of field systems and souterrains in the lowlands, and basic questions remain unanswered. For example, did souterrains and large field systems appear at broadly the same time, in a period of stability and cohesion, or sporadically over several centuries Some hints may come from the uplands, where analysis of pollen and sediments from lochs and rivers in the Cheviots has produced...

CCeltic cowboys and the myth ofCaledon

In 1968 Professor Stuart Piggott characterized the peoples of the Scottish Iron Age as 'Celtic cowboys footloose and unpredictable.Their pastoral, possibly nomadic, lifestyle was expressed as a direct contrast to the agricultural economies of southern England where grain storage pits, granaries and fields, the paraphernalia of settled farmers, were more obvious. This view reflected the powerful influence of the classical texts Cassius Dio, writing around AD 220, had condemned the northern...

Towers in the north

While reconstruction drawings can give some sense of how impressive the timber roundhouses might once have been, it is perhaps only with the broch towers of the north and west that we can gain a real sense of the visual impact of such buildings 18 Vie broch lower of Mousa in Shetland is one of the best preserved prehistoric buildings in Britain, standing close to its original height at around 13m tall. and of the central role of the roundhouse in Iron Age life. Yet brochs and duns have tended...

Bronze Age houses in the Sutherland glens

Bronze Age House Sutherland Glen

The most common prehistoric houses visible in the landscape today are hut circles. This rather antiquated term encompasses a wide variety of architectural forms that need share little more than a tendency to decay into a ring-shaped earthen bank. Many were originally imposing and elaborate buildings to which the rather disparaging term 'hut' does little justice. These roundhouses are among the most common prehistoric remains in the Scottish landscape, with more than 2000 known in Sutherland...

Expressions of ethnicity

We might expect the emergence of tribal units to be accompanied by some material expression of tribal or ethnic identity. However, in the early part of our period the surviving artefacts suggest precisely the opposite. During the Later Bronze Age. the status-conscious elites flaunted elaborate bronzes that bore striking similarities to those of their peers elsewhere in Europe. The appeal of these items probably lay as much in their exotic associations as in the time lavished on their...

Tiibal interaction

In view of the territoriality and social fragmentation that seems to characterize the middle centuries of the first millennium BC, the lack of evidence for inter-tribal contact prior to the Roman incursions conies as little surprise. Steatite, found only in Shetland, was transported to Orkney and to a few sites on the west coast, but apparently not in any significant quantities. Similarly, iron ore must have been traded to some extent, as presumably was timber for the construction of monumental...

Places of worship

Sculptor Cave Covesea

The classical records suggest that Celtic religion was practised in natural places, such as groves, forest clearings, pools, lakes and islands, rather than in the monumental buildings familiar to the Romans and Greeks, so it is unsurprising that overtly ritual sites are hard to find. The Latin poet Lucan, writing in the first century AD though describing events of a century earlier, describes a dark and hidden woodland sanctuary near Marseilles, where human sacrifices were offered up to crude...

Rites of sacrifice

Metalwork Deposits Carlingwark Loch

Classical accounts of Celtic religion dwell on acts of sacrifice. The offering of material wealth to the gods, in return for favours, to ensure good luck or as simple bribes, is common in accounts of the Celts, and tar from alien to classical societies of the same period. Mounds of valuable possessions, booty and trophies of war, were apparently heaped in sacred places, enclosures and pools, inviolable on pain of death. This wealth could comprise a collection of elaborate jewellery or weaponry,...

Burial

Celtic Cist Burial Excavation

Despite the regular occurrence of stray fragments of human bone on settlements, formal Iron Age burials are notoriously rare in Britain prior to the first century AD By the end of the Bronze Age cremation was the dominant burial rite throughout Britain, the ashes often being placed in pots, pits or cairns. Around 700 BC, however, cremations more or less disappear from the archaeological record. Some indications are now appearing, however, to suggest that some simple burials and small cemeteries...

Tribal Scotland

Craftsman Lawn Mower Parts Snow Blowers

By the time of the Roman invasion Scotland was occupied by numerous tribal groups. The Greek geographer Ptolemy, writing in the second century AD. but drawing on earlier accounts, gives a roll-call of the tribes, mostly identified by recognizably Celtic names 58 . He also provides tantalizingly vague descriptions of their territories the Selgovae seemingly in the upper Tweed Basin the Novantae in the south-west and many more. But Ptolemy's account should not be taken too literally. Problems...

The Bronze Age crash

The Later Bronze Age is usually regarded as a period of environmental and economic decline. From around 1300 BC the climate seems to have become gradually colder and wetter, to such an extent that communities in some marginal lands were forced to give up agriculture altogether. As a result, extensive Bronze Age landscapes survive in some parts of the British Isles, for example on Dartmoor, and in parts of Shetland, where the abandoned lands were never reclaimed. This retreat from the uplands...

Who were the Celts

Celt Warrior

There are three main strands of evidence to which we can look when searching for the ancient Celts. The first comprises the written accounts of the classical authors, many of whom encountered the Iron Age peoples of temperate Europe at first hand 2 . Secondly, we have the linguistic links between the surviving languages of the modern-day 'Celtic fringe' and languages spoken across vast tracts of central and western Europe during the Iron Age. And thirdly, of course, we have the archaeology....

Timber roundhouses in the south and east

Cutaway Celt Roundhouse

Just as the excavations at Lairg have pushed the dates of hut circles firmly back into the bronze Age, recent work in Upper Clydesdale has shown an equally precocious development of timber roundhouses in the south. At the site of Lintshie Gutter, more than thirty platforms cut into the hillside mark the stances for roundhouses formed of earthen walls faced with wattle and daub. Inside were hearths, cooking pits, pottery and querns. Charcoal from the buildings has been dated well before 1500 BC...

The Pictish wars

Votadini Culture

Although throughout this period the northern frontier remained fixed on Hadrians Wall, the area to the north was under the surveillance of scouts who, in AI 367, betrayed the Romans to their northern enemies and were disbanded. The tribes between the Tyne and Forth, such as the Votadini and Damnonii, however, appear to have remained either neutral or perhaps even actively pro-Roman. Certainly the Roman writers refer to the repeated incursions of troublesome Picts and Scots, yet never mention...

Expressions of status

Sword Scabbard Mortonhall

By around 100 BC the pattern was changing again and we see a shift from expressions of kinship and ethnicity to expressions of personal status. Perhaps as a northern reflection of an upsurge in trade among the tribes of Gaul and southern England, ultimately spurred on by the establishment of new Mediterranean markets, longdistance contacts were re-established. Scottish manifestations of this renewed activity are limited, however, and many of the goods that probably formed the basis for external...

Domestic rituals in the north

A curious series of deposits recovered from wheelhouses in the Western Isles shed some light on an aspect of Iron Age ritual that escapes note in the literary sources. At Sollas in North Uist, around 150 pits had been dug into the soft sand floor of the wheelhouse 81 . Of these, around 60 contained animal bone while the rest may well have held other perishable materials, such as plant foods. Most of the ritual deposits at Sollas came from small, often inter-cutting, pits dug during the life of...

Hunting and gathering fishing and fowling

Even in these farming lands wild plants, berries, nuts, seeds, fruit, herbs and fungi would have been collected for food, drink, flavourings and medicines, although these are notoriously difficult to detect archaeologically. The Hebridean wheelhouses give some indication of the variety of birds and fish that would have been exploited by coastal communities throughout Scotland. Cnip and Sollas produced the remains of numerous sea-birds the shag, great auk now extinct , guillemot, puffin, gannet,...

TIjc cult of the head

The Cult The Head Celtic

Numerous references, from Polybius writing of the Battle of Telamon in 225 BC to the later Christian Irish authors, attest to the Celtic predilection for collecting the severed heads of their enemies. Posidonius further related how the Gauls nailed the heads of vanquished enemies to their houses and preserved others in cedar oil for permanent display. While some Roman writers probably played up the head-hunting aspect of Celtic warfare for propaganda purposes, there is a scatter of supporting...

Ritual and religion

While the following works do not deal specifically with Scotland, they do tackle Iron Age religion at a European scale. Piggott's work is the classic text 011 the Druids and provides a healthily sceptical approach to the literary sources. Miranda Greens book provides an up-to-date overview incorporating more recently excavated material. Green, M 2001. Dying for the Gods Human Sacrifice in Iron Age and Roman Europe. Stroud Tempus. Piggott, S 1968. The Druids. London Penguin. Fraser Hunters...

Roman and native

Keltic Fort

There are several good books 011 the Roman period 111 Scotland, all of which have something to say about the interaction of Rome with the indigenous population. David Breeze's book is the most wide-ranging and provides the best general introduction London Batsford. Hanson. WS 1991. Agricola and the Conquest of the North. London Batsford. Hanson, WS and Maxwell, GS 1983. Rome's North-West Frontier the Antonine Wall. Edinburgh Edinburgh University Press. Maxwell, GS 1990. A Battle List Romans and...

Iron Arfc farmers in the lowlands

Souterrain Scotland

Despite this rather apocalyptic vision of economic devastation in the Highlands and Islands, there is little matching evidence in the south and east of the country. Indeed, what was going on in the Scottish lowlands in the centuries from around 1500 to 1000 BC remains something of a mystery, since centuries of merciless ploughing have scoured away all but the most indelible settlement traces. Many areas of good modern farmland would have been out of bounds to prehistoric farmers some heavy...

Acknowledgements

The ideas presented here are founded on the work of generations of scholars and I cannot stress too much the debt that is owed to their efforts. Although I have greatly expanded the bibliography for this second edition, it is still far from comprehensive. There is no scope in a book of this kind to include the detailed references or footnotes that would expose my borrowings more fully. I hope, however, that the new bibliography will at least make it easier to follow up areas of interest. For a...

Archaeological sites

Several Iron Age sites are in the care of the Secretary of State for Scotland and are looked after by Historic Scotland. These have on-site information and are probably the best sites to begin with. Following the coast clockwise from Shetland they are Clickhimin, broch and settlement, Shetland Jarlshof, broch and settlement, Shetland Ness of Burgi, fort blockhouse , Shetland HU 4643 4082 HU 39800955 HU 4573 2366 HU 3878 0839 HY 3818 2685 HY 4413 1161 HY 3716 3061 HY 3971 1259 NC 8704 0137 NC...

T

Stichill Collar

Connain in North Uist. while decorated combs and tweezers have been found in other parts of the country. The ownership of well-bred animals was another way in which chiefs and kings could set themselves apart from their subjects, particularly in a society where ownership of stock would have been a yardstick of wealth. Horses were certainly present throughout much of Scotland, being found in Orkney and the Western Isles as well as further south at sites like Eildon Hill North and Broxmouth....

Celtic languages

How The Latin Languagespread

There is, by and large, a consensus that Celtic languages emerged in Europe during the Later Bronze Age and they were certainly dominant throughout the British Isles by the time of the Roman occupation. Indeed, the Greek writer Pytheas, writing as early as 325 BC and quoted by Diodorus Siculus in the first century BC, referred to Britain as 8 The Corrymuckloch hoard from the Sma Glen in Perthshire was discovered in 1995. Along with a deliberately snapped sword blade and three socketed axes,...