Settlement, landscape and land-use change at a Pictish Elite Centre: Assessing the palaeoecological record for economic continuity and social change at Rhynie in N.E. Scotland

Samantha Jones* (Corresponding Author), Nick Evans, Antonio Martínez Cortizas, Timothy Mighall, Gordon Noble

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

The 1st millennium AD was a transformative period when many of the medieval kingdoms of Europe began to take shape, but despite recent advances in palaeoecological and archaeological research there remains a shortage of interdisciplinary collaborative research targeting this period. For some regions we know relatively little about the societies who lived during this formative period. This current investigation focusses on an early medieval elite centre near to Rhynie in NE Scotland; an important power-centre during the 4th-7th centuries AD as evidenced by a remarkable series of Class I Pictish symbol stones, fortified enclosures at Cairn more, Tap o’ Noth and the Craw-Stane, as well as high status metal-working and a range of continental imports from the Craw-Stane enclosure. However, by the end of the 7th century AD, elite focus appears to have shifted elsewhere with the Craw-Stane and Cairn More enclosures all being abandoned. By combining paleoenvironmental analysis with available historical and archaeological archives this paper provides new insights into societal change during the 1st Millennium AD, with focus on the economic, social and environmental impacts caused by the rise and subsequent abandonment of elite nodes of power. A calibrated age of AD 260-415, near the base of the core, coincides with the earliest dates for the Craw-Stane complex and pre-dates the
construction of the nearby Cairn More enclosure. The results provide a rare snapshot of the Late Roman Iron Age to Medieval environment of Northeast Scotland. This centre appears to have been supported by a rich agricultural landscape, with evidence of pastoral and arable farming, and potential metal working. One of the most significant findings of this study has revealed that despite abandonment of these elite enclosed sites by the 7th century AD, people continued to utilise the surrounding landscape and available resources right through until modern times.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Holocene
Early online date17 Feb 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Feb 2021

Keywords

  • Pictland
  • Pollen
  • Geochemistry (XRF)
  • Archaelogy
  • Early Medieval
  • NE Scotland
  • Palaecology
  • Late Roman Iron Age
  • NPPS
  • History
  • Social
  • Environmental and Economic change

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