Stone Circle, Killin, Perthshire
There was no abrupt transition
from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic,
it is likely that there was a gradual adoption of the Neolithic
technologies rather than an incoming people which caused the
changes which occured. The Neolithic is an archaeological
construct which means the moving away from a hunter gatherer
way of life to a settled farming one. Other changes are important
too, permanent settlements, new religious beliefs resulting
in tombs and 'temples' being constructed, new forms of flint
and stone tools, and the introduction of pottery. Taken together
these changed the way of life of the people who lived in what
is now Scotland totally.
To begin with there would have been few farmers and it would
have taken centuries for any changes to become noticeable
in the landscape. Areas of woodland would have to be cleared,
and for this reason axes were very important to the Neolithic
farmer. These axes were produced locally at sites such as
Creag na Caillich north of Killin in Perthshire as well as
at Tayside and Grampian, and were also imported from Great
Langdale in Cumbria and Tievebulliagh in Antrim. After the
trees were removed the soil was broken with simple hoe-type
or ard implements. Slash-and-burn evidence is widely spread
across the country but most of the evidence for Neolithic
settlement comes from tombs rather than the settlements themselves.
There were varying tomb-building traditions in different parts
of the country as well as chanfing traditions through time. In large
parts of the east, including the Moray Firth, the long or round
barrow was popular (these are called cairns if stones were used
in the construction instead of earth). On the west coast chambered
tombs were the preferred monument for the dead. The most widely
known tomb, however, is the megalithic monument. These are the most
intensively studied of the Scottish monuments and this has shown
that there are clearly definable regional traditions in the building
of these monuments.
Ring of Brodgar, Orkney
Of settlement sites less is known, the most famous being Skara
Brae in Orkney. The settlement is located on the west coast of mainland Orkney at Skaill Bay. and survived virtually intact due to being
covered for many centuries, the remains were not discovered until 1850 after a bad storm uncovered them. The site was occupied over a long period of time, 3100BC - 2450BC, and the settlement was extensively remodelled several times during this period. There is little evidence remaining of the earliest settlement but the ground plans of at least six houses have been found in the next phase of building. The remains visible today are from the phase of building just before the sand dunes finally covered the abandoned site, these houses were rectangular or square with one room and a central hearth. Wall recesses were constructed to hold beds.
Other stone settlements to survive include Knap of Howar and Scord
of Brouster. At Knap of Howar the individual houses are separate
while at Skara Brae they are clustered together and linked with
passages. The individual houses had a central hearth and alcoves
in the walls for storage. A Skara Brae type house has also been
discovered at Rinyo. On mainland Scotland Neolithic longhouses have
been discovered at Balbridie in northern Kincardineshire and at
Crathes and Monboddo, these last two have not been excavated, however,
and their dating is less certain.
Skara Brae, Orkney
Various pottery styles have been identified in Neolithic
Scotland, these include Unstan Ware which is named after a
chambered cairn on Orkney. This pottery is typified by round
bottom bowls with a pronounced shoulder and a decorated collar.
It has been found in the Hebrides and northern Scotland as
well as on Orkney. At Knap of Howar both utilitarian ware
and much finer pottery was found and it is thought they were
all manufactured on the site itself. At Skara Brae a different
type of pottery was used, this is known as 'Grooved Ware',
a heavy-looking pottery made from a course and gritty clay.
The decoration used on Grooved Ware included zones of grooved,
cut or applied raised decoration which was usually of geometric
style. The jars could have a diameter of up to 0.6m and were
flat-based and often heavily decorated.
Other Neolithic monuments in Scotland include henges and
stone circles. Henges are widely spread across the country
including Cairnpapple Hill in West Lothian, Balfarg in Fife
and two in Orkney - the Ring of Brogar and the Stones of Stenness.
A henge is a banked and ditched enclosure, there is a central
platform enclosed by a deep ditch, the ditch material is then
thrown onto the outer edge to form a bank around the whole.
At Stenness it has been estimated that over 20,000 man hours
of work was required to build the henge. The interior of the
henge occasionally includes a stone circle but rectangular
and wooden structures have also been identified. The use(s)
to which henges were put is a much debated topic with the
full spectrum from settlement to religious being put forward,
it is likely that they were put to various uses at diffrent
Between around c.2500 BC and c.2000 BC metalwork started
to make its way into Scotland and thus began the Bronze Age.
History Books on the Neolithic:
||Neolithic & Bronze Age
|The story of Scotland from the first farmer
to the beginning of the Iron Age, a period which covers
the construction of settlements and the enigmatic stone
circles. Another fine addition to the Historic Scotland
1. An untilled land 2. Farmers from 4000-3500BC 3. Regional
Diversity increases 3500-3000BC 4. Temples of the Earth
and Sky 3000-2500BC 5. Cults of Conquerors 2500-2000BC
6. Villagers 2000-1500BC 7. Mastering the Land 1500-1000BC
8. A Time of Swords 1000-750BC.
||Temples and Tombs
|The coming of the first farmers to Scotland about
6000 BC saw the beginning of the transformation of Scotland's
landscape from wild to domestic, the beginnings of the felling
of the primeval forests and the building of monuments on the
land. This book covers this period.
||Guide to Prehistoric Scotland
|The numerous prehistoric monuments and
sites which survive in Scotland include many that are
widely known, but a great many more that are hardly ever
visited. This guide, again available, contains examples
of both types. Having placed these prehistoric and Pictish
survivals in their human and chronological setting, the
author provides fully annotated alphabetical lists under
Complete with full Ordnance Survey map references, photographs
and drawings, the guide is not only an invaluable work
of reference; it will enable both amateur archaeologists
and interested visitors to locate and interpret the most
important visible remains of prehistoric Scotland.
|This handbook on the archaeology of prehistoric
Scotland incorporates a gazetteer of key sites and monuments.
It ranges from the seventh millennium BC, through the
Neolithic period and the Bronze Age, to the emergence
of the early historic kingdoms after the Celtic Iron Age.
||Scotland Before History
|Ritchie, Graham & Anna
||Scotland: Archaeology and
|An authoritative coverage of the early
history of the country and the archaeological evidence
that we have for the people who inhabited it. Deals with
early farming communities, henge monuments, early metalworking,
early Celts, the Romans, Britons and Angles, and the Picts.
|A fine popular introduction to the history
of the ancient races of Scotland and the relics they have
left behind them. Covers the Beaker Folk, the first Celts,
the Roman invasion, the Picts and the Vikings.