2.3 Early Archaeological work (1890-1945)

While there had been some precocious excavations, such as the exploration of the Duntocher bathhouse in 1775 (Keppie 2004a) or Adam de Cardonnel's 1783 work on the Inveresk hypocaust (de Cardonnel 1822), the era of scientific archaeological research did not commence until the 1890s. In 1890 the Glasgow Archaeological Society set out to determine if the Antonine Wall really was constructed of turf, while the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland sponsored a series of excavations at forts, fortlets and towers along its course. Both societies continued to sponsor excavations during the inter-War years. The work was inevitably of its time, but the techniques and interpretations stood comparison with those of wider Roman scholarship, and in some cases (notably Curle's publication of Newstead; 1911) greatly surpassed equivalent undertakings elsewhere in Britain.

This period also saw significant works of synthesis. In 1911, Sir George Macdonald published The Roman Wall in Scotland, the first modern treatment of the Antonine Wall, and undertook research excavations in order to help check the line of the frontier; this was updated in a second edition (1934). The sculpture and inscriptions in the Hunterian Museum were published (J Macdonald 1897), as were the first of a continuing series of coin surveys (Haverfield 1899, 159-168; G Macdonald 1918). Research also began in earnest on the impact of the occupation on indigenous societies, notably with James Curle's magisterial corpus of Roman finds from non-Roman sites (Curle 1932a).


2.2 Antiquarian research

The study of Roman Scotland may be said to have started in the 16th century with the first modern written accounts and the recording of inscriptions and sculpture (such as the Inveresk altar recorded in 1565; Moir 1860, 4-7; RIB 2132; or the works of Hector Boece ( 1527) and George Buchanan ( 1582)). The literary sources, and in particular Tacitus' Agricola and the quest for Mons Graupius, framed much of the early discourse (see Maxwell 1990), a trend which has persisted in some quarters to this day. The 18th century saw the heyday of antiquarian research with Alexander Gordon and John Horsley (among others) describing the remains and William Roy mapping and planning the surviving earthworks and occasionally buildings (Gordon 1726; Horsley 1732; Roy 1793); among 19th-century works, Robert Stuart's Caledonia Romana may be singled out as a valuable synthesis (Stuart 1845; 1852).