Raven, John A.
Medieval landscapes and lordship in South Uist.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This thesis examines the structures of society and lordship in the Middle Ages in South Uist through historical documentation, oral-tradition, cultural landscapes, monuments and settlement patterns. In this thesis, the medieval period has been defined as that between c. 1000 and c. 1650. The historical evidence is considered along with archaeological evidence to create a holistic understanding of medieval social developments in South Uist. The results have ramifications for interpreting contemporaneous society throughout Scotland and Ireland. The study focuses on rural settlement (farms, townships, field- and transhumance-systems) and high-status monuments (churches, duns and castles). Developments visible in both the historical and archaeological record demonstrate that considerable social, economic and cultural changes took place within the landscape of South Uist throughout the Middle Ages. However, the nature of the evidence polarises the study into two time spheres: the Norse period, c. 1000 - c. 1400, and the Late Medieval period, c. 1550 - c. 1650. Remains belonging to the intervening period have proved difficult to locate.
The Norse period landscape was characterised by dispersed farmsteads, possibly siting within an enclosed field-system. It is probable that these farmsteads originated as the homesteads of Viking Age settlers. Between the eleventh century and the end of the 1300s, there was a trend towards social and economic centralisation and the creation of an increasingly formalised social hierarchy: manifestations of this can be seen in the archaeological record and a new system of taxation. Archaeologically this is revealed by increasing divergence in the sizes of farmsteads, the largest of which also exhibit signs of industrial and agricultural control. Increased social differentiation is additionally reflected in artefact assemblages.
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