bronze age

2.4 Regional Summaries and variations (deleted from word doc)

The compact distributions of such distinctive monuments as recumbent stone circles and Clava passage graves, or stone balls, leave little doubt that various aspects of Bronze Age life and practice were expressed differently from place to place. This is particularly so of funerary and ceremonial monuments. Thus some of the ideas that seem to be inherent in recumbent stone circles in the North-east, which dramatically emphasise the south-western arc of the monument and extensively draw on the symbolism of quartz (see Welfare 2011), are not only inherent within the Clava-type cairns around the inner Moray Firth, but are found across much wider areas of Scotland. The grading of the kerbstones towards the south-west, for example, is not only a notable feature of many large cairns with well-preserved kerbs, but equally a feature of the classic small kerb cairns, with their disproportionately large kerbstones and extensive use of quartz (Ritchie and Maclaren 1972); these latter are mainly found in Argyll and Perthshire, but the distribution is by no means exclusive. Indeed, any regional patterns to be observed in the character of the kerbs of cairns is much more diffuse and difficult to discern, though the apparent absence of such features from the south-east of Scotland might be construed as some form of regional expression in its own right. Even here, however, the faint echo of the same beliefs is perhaps detectable in the Harehope Cairn, where the primary cairn was enlarged eccentrically with a much thicker band of new cairn material on the south-west (Jobey 1981).

The significance of these regional distributions, however, is not understood, and it would be naïve to define a region on the distribution of one particular type of monument or artefact. The striking architecture of recumbent stone circles almost inevitably becomes an iconic symbol of regionality that plays down the importance of a host of other circles in the North-east that present differing nuances of the same design, but without the inclusion of the massive recumbent block. The presence of an internal cairn, for example, is also attested in other circles, as is the grading of ringstones, though in some cases the evidence suggests no more than an open ring of ungraded orthostats. In this sense, the North-east forms part of a much larger region stretching southwards into Perthshire and beyond, an area equally notable for its concentration of small megalithic rings and settings. Many of these are also graded towards the south-west, including the complex circle at Croft Moraig, while others, such as Moncrieffe House, reveal other patterns. This area and neighbouring Angus are also notable for their four-poster stone settings, in which the corner stones are also typically graded in height.

By contrast the settlement evidence is apparently the least responsive regional aspect of the record until the Late Bronze Age, when in the South-east at least a distinctive regional pattern of enclosed settlements seems to make its appearance. Across much of the South-east there is little to be seen of any settlement before this period, the notable exception being the unenclosed platform settlements of upper Tweeddale and Clydesdale. The appearance of these clusters of platforms, often on quite steep slopes, is not immediately akin to the hut-circle groups of the Highlands, though in essence they are no more than groups of round-houses, sometimes with traces of fields and stone clearance in attendance. The hut-circle is otherwise ubiquitous across mainland Scotland, with no distinguishing features, though in Galloway they tend to occur in ones and twos, sometimes with baffle walls around their entrances, while in Perthshire and Sutherland they often occur in larger groups of a dozen or more. The greatest contrast is to be found in the Northern Isles, where the buildings are often more oval in overall shape, while the interior is less regular, with a series of alcoves set back into the thickness of the wall.

2.2 Chalcolithic and Bronze Age Scotland: an overview

Chalcolithic (Early Beaker), 25th–22nd century BC (Period 1)

The earliest Bronze Age (22nd–20th century BC) (Period 2)

The rest of the Early Bronze Age, 20th century – 1700/1600 BC (Periods 3 & 4)

Middle Bronze Age, c 1700/1600–c 12th century (Period 5)

Late Bronze Age, c 12th century –8th century  (Periods 6 & 7) and Early Iron Age transition