case study

2.8 The Future

The framework has identified the following key future research areas and issues:

  1. Investigating the formation of polities will require considerable amounts of data to be gathered and integrated, and considerable advances can be made. This will hinge on understanding and questioning the relationships between centres of consumption, royal, ecclesiastical and urban and their hinterlands and the recognition that integrated economic activity underpins social identities and trajectories. Active critique of the concepts of progress and chronological development underpinning these trajectories on a national scale should be encouraged.
  2. Examining other regional foci and considering how and why they rise and fall should be promoted. The development of regional frameworks investigating other areas is to be endorsed in order to develop a more rounded picture of the trajectory of power across Scotland. Studies into the nature of the interaction between polities, and how this is materially manifested, should be encouraged. Taking the arrival of the Vikings as an example, the available evidence and the potential areas for further research can be sub-divided into three main areas: the Picto-Norse interface; the Viking-age and the Late Norse period, with the main research questions revolving around the location of relevant sites, issues of political and social interaction, maritime supply networks, the introduction of new crops, the transformation of the fishing industries and the assimilation or otherwise of artefactual forms.
  3. Alignment with RCAHMS programmes, such as Historic Land-use Assessment (HLA), to ensure research starts with best understanding of the research area is a key starting point to approaching past territories. This should incorporate comparisons between prehistoric and protohistoric distributions. Understanding and mapping the changing parochial structure would aid our research into both the distribution of churches, ecclesiastical organisation and the structure of landownership and rural settlement.
  4. Settlement hierarchies, morphology and aspects of material culture, must be built into regional maps of land use and settlement in order to answer questions of clan, kinship and the emergence of a Highland-Lowland divide. Intensification of lordship and a growing market economy must be built into social models, but the chronology drawn from textual evidence is sporadic and anecdotal whereas integrated regional settlement studies allows models and analyses to be refined.


Case Study: The Carpow log boat

In 2006 a Bronze Age log boat was recovered from the banks of the Tay at Carpow. Perth & Kinross Historic Trust formed a partnership with National Museums Scotland for the conservation of this remarkably preserved 9m+ long boat. Without appropriate treatment the waterlogged timber would shrink and deform. Treatment required understanding the material science of waterlogged wood, knowing the degree of degradation and water content of the oak, and having access to large scale specialist facilities and expertise.

The Carpow longboat during excavation ©RCAHMS

Dr Theo Skinner, who was responsible for the conservation, reviewed possible treatment methods before selecting impregnation by polyethylene glycol (PEG) followed by freeze drying. Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) was used to identify surface accretions. Sulphur was found as a potential problem, and samples were taken for further analysis by X-ray spectroscopy at the Swiss synchrotron facility.

In collaboration with The Mary Rose Trust a potential new method to prevent the future build up of damaging sulphuric acid using calcium phytate was devised. The depth profile of water content in the timber was measured and used to specify the necessary PEG treatment and impregnation times, a programme which ran for approximately 18 months. Each section of the log boat was then treated in the NMS large object freeze drier (developed as a national facility for conservation of marine and wetland material), monitoring progress by measurement of water loss. Conservation work will run to the end of 2011, the integration of scientific analysis and measurement continuing hand-in-hand with practical treatment throughout.

Return to Section 3.9 Conservation science