3.7 The Future

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

  1. The broad range of medieval settlement should be approached holistically, incorporating the diverse nature of different types of site through appropriate scales of fieldwork. Attention to under-studied areas, the incorporation of material studies, the examination of literary sources, the promotion of collaborative working and the study of the environmental and land-use context of settlement are all prerequisites to further progress. The lack of early medieval settlement is a critical gap and High status later Medieval settlement, such as castles, should be approached as sites within the wider medieval landscape. More work is required to consider what our expectations of settlement are - parallels with areas such as Ireland and Scandinavia should be employed to help consider the range of possibilities.
  2. Integrated landscape studies, based on models such as those adopted by SERF or the Donside project, are required to address a range of settlement-related questions, to approach regional variation, and to consider low-status settlement. Excavation should be combined with survey to develop chronological frameworks and chart the changing nature of medieval settlement. Regional variation, such as between the Gaelic west and the Anglo-Norman lowlands should be explored. Standing buildings have an important contribution to make here, be they secular or ecclesiastical, and there is much potential to be exploited in uncovering the traces of earlier buildings and their social and economic signifcance within apparently later structures.
  3. Future investigations of Scottish burghs should include collaborative work on the provisioning of burghs, analysis of the nature of their origin and subsequent development, and consideration of their role within the wider settlement system, including work on more inland settlements. Monastic granges remain little studied but have a huge potential for understanding the contribution of the reformed monasteries to agriculture and industry. Coastal sites, such as beachmarkets, with the potential for evidence of trade and other kinds of contact should be researched in the context of coastal erosion/sea level rise. Fuller hinterland studies of Scottish burghs should include assessments on how burgh needs impacted on animal husbandry, crop and woodland management and the production of raw materils for example.
  4. Interdisciplinary environmental research projects at whole systems or landscape level, and combining at least geoarchaeology, palaeoenvironmental studies and historical documentary analysis, are essential for understanding the processes of anthropogenic environmental change, human responses to such changes, and their archaeological manifestation across the broad span of the ‘medieval warm period’ and the beginning of the ‘Little Ice Age’. Such work is essential for establishing the context, dynamics and mechanisms for expansion of rural settlement, cultivation and pasture, its environmental impacts, and the circumstances which produced contraction, abandonment or changes in land-use.
  5. Climatic assessments for the medieval period need to extend to the exploration of direct and indirect effects of weather systems on topography, and resultant effects on society, including animal husbandry, land management and demography.


How should we consider questions of demography? Any potential for investigating medieval buildings as an earlier element subsumed within later buildings?

Should we highlight the potential for the use of spatail and gendered analysis in standing buildings?