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 tribes as having no 'cultivated lands, but living by pastoral pursuits and by hunting, and on certain kinds of berries', adding for good measure that they lived naked, barefoot and in tents.

Since Piggott made his much-quoted statement a mass of new data has become available. Aerial photography has brought to light extensive landscapes of buried lowland settlement, while traces of cultivation have been found in the uplands at altitudes once unthinkable for the Iron Age. These discoveries force us to rethink the old picture of a heavily forested country where a small and dispersed population roamed with their flocks and herds. Instead, we have to imagine crowded lowland landscapes of fields, pasture, wetlands and managed woodland, and the periodic expansion of settlers into the upland pastures. Indeed, the first such expansion pre-dates the Iron Age by several centuries and seems to have taken place in the middle of the second millennium BC (51).

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