Little house on the hill: New chronologies for upland settlement and land use in 2nd millennium BC Scotland

McDonald, Sophie (2023) Little house on the hill: New chronologies for upland settlement and land use in 2nd millennium BC Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis uses Bayesian modelling and radiocarbon dating to develop refined, precise chronologies for upland settlement in Scotland north of the Forth/Clyde line in the 2nd millennium BC. In the course of this research, 73 new radiocarbon dates were produced, 32 from archival charcoal samples (sourced from the archive of the Lairg Project [1988–1996]), 41 from peat sampled from the Allt na Fearna quarry site, Achany Glen, Sutherland. Further chronological models for seven additional Bronze Age settlement sites were produced using published or publicly available dates.

The results of this research update current narratives for Bronze Age settlement in Scotland. It is generally held that settlement expansion or intensification in this period occurred notably in upland areas. The chronologies produced during the course of this research indicate that settlement expansion occurred at both upland and lowland sites after c.1700 cal BC, with a decline in settlement activity again seen at both upland and lowland sites in the late 2nd/early 1st millennium BC. Potential drivers behind settlement intensification and decline – climatic shifts and social and economic change – are explored. Individual roundhouses appear to have been in use for only a generation or so before being abandoned. This has implications for existing narratives for settlement in Scotland (and potentially further afield) in the Bronze Age.

Additionally, a potential old wood effect was observed in legacy dates from bulk charcoal samples, and potential issues were also identified with legacy palaeoenvironmental chronologies. Going forward it is suggested that archaeological and palaeoecological chronologies based on uncritically accepted legacy dates should be treated with caution.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: This research was made possible by funding from Historic Environment Scotland, who also provided an additional grant (HEAP5892112772) to facilitate the palaeoenvironmental work.
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Supervisor's Name: Hamilton, Professor Derek, Cook, Professor Gordon and Brown, Dr. Lisa
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83599
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 May 2023 15:10
Last Modified: 22 May 2023 15:10
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83599

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