Archaeological evidence for settlement and land use in early medieval Scottish upland landscapes remains largely undiscovered. This study records only the second excavation of one important and distinctive house form, the Pitcarmicktype building, in the hills of north-east Perth and Kinross. Excavation of seven turf buildings at Lair in Glen Shee has confirmed the introduction of Pitcarmick buildings in the early 7th century AD. Clusters of these at Lair, and elsewhere in the hills, are interpreted as integrated, spatially organised farm complexes comprising byre-houses and outbuildings. Their form has more to do with contemporary traditions across the North Sea than with local styles.
There is a close link between 7th-century climatic amelioration and their spread across the hills, and it is argued that this was a purposeful re-occupation of a neglected landscape. Pitcarmick buildings were constructed and lived in by precocious, knowledgeable, and prosperous farming communities. Pollen analysis has shown the upland economy to have been arable as well as pastoral, and comparable contemporary economic ‘recovery’ is suggested from similar analyses across Scotland. The farms at Lair were stable and productive until the 11th century when changes, poorly understood, saw their demise.
About the Authors
David Strachan has worked in curatorial field archaeology in Wales, England and Scotland, at both national and local level, over the last 30 years. Having established the Historic Environment Record and planning archaeology service for Perth and Kinross in 2000, as Director of Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust he maintains interests in the Scottish ‘long’ Iron Age, intertidal and upland archaeology, and aerial photography.
David Sneddon has 20 years professional experience in archaeology, the last eight years of which were with Northlight Heritage where he was Project Manager. He recently co-founded Clyde Archaeology who provide archaeological and heritage services across the UK.
Richard Tipping has worked on problems of interpreting northern British landscapes since 1984 as a palaeo-ecologist, historical geomorphologist, geo-archaeologist and environmental historian. He has authored, co-authored and edited twelve books and more than 250 peer-reviewed and other contributions.
'Devotees of upland field archaeology in Britain will be familiar with some of its eternal problems: inadequate chronological precision, few finds and often poor connectivity between structural data from settlement archaeology and landscape-level palaeoenvironmental studies. This attractively presented and sparingly written monograph shows that these issues can be substantially overcome with well-planned collaboration between field surveyors, excavators and palaeobotanists.'—David Griffiths, Medieval Settlement Research 36, November 2021