4.6 Future research recommendations

From the detailed recommendations above, the following have been identified as key future research areas and issues:

  1. A full understanding of the production and procurement of resources requires an integrated ‘field to feast‘ or lifecycle approach, considering the nature of the various stages from procurement/production, processing and storage, to consumption / use.
  2. A key aspect for future work is the nature of inter-site differences in terms of status and the domestic animals produced and consumed. in different circumstances.
  3. Characterising agricultural practice, including whether crops were produced at all sites or whether there were specific producer and consumer sites, forms another strand.
  4. Combinations of techniques and methodologies are required to build up a full picture of the procurement, use and consumption of plant and animal resources. How well, for example, do the results of isotopic studies coincide with data from animal bones and plant remains would provide a useful point of departure. Innovative approaches are required for topics such as dairying, the nature of specific meals, and how foods were combined together.
  5. The issue of resource procurement is one where scientific work has not been exploited to the full.
  • a) Petrological work on the geological sourcing of rock types occurring as filler in ceramics should be continued and expanded, especially in developing detailed pictures of local supply systems.
  • b) Attempts to fingerprint Scottish copper sources by the analysis of copper alloys (successful in identifying the reuse of Roman metal) would benefit from a wider application of analysis to examine the possibility of  regional variation, and also from more work on trace elements to look for pre-Roman circulation pools, as has proved possible in Bronze Age contexts.
  • c) Direct evidence of mining remains elusive, and here proxy records (such as pollution signatures in peat bogs) offer considerable potential.
  • The study of evidence for woodland exploitation for the different provision of material for building, different types of artefacts and, of course fuel, is an area of considerable potential especially given the numbers of waterlogged sites, notably crannogs. Valuable work has been done on this but it remains a resource where the Scottish record exhibits considerable potential.
  • Many resources were immediately  locally available. This is too often seen as ‘obvious’ and therefore without  interest. The detail of localised procurement systems is of interest in terms of the exploitation of the local landscape, with the potential detailed pictures of routes of access and areas of avoidance affecting views of landscape use beyond the site.
  • Existing assemblages contain a great deal of raw material which merits study or re-examination to allow re-thinking and modelling production and procurement systems could be undertaken. Regional case studies for particular crafts would be a valuable way forward:
    • a)Iron (through both study of slag and metallographic work on the products) is an obvious, urgent and often ignored subject of such study.
    • b)Cannel coal / oil shale and jet are often insufficiently differentiated and possibly contain the means for even more precision in origination. They are also prime candidates for technological study of patterns of craft practice.
    • c)Bone/antler show evidence of regional or chronological variation in manufacturing techniques, but this has not seen detailed synthesis. There are also hints of varied access to resources e.g. cetacean bone or marine ivory,which merit more work.
  • Sites with good manufacturing evidence, excavated and published to modern standards, remain rare; future discoveries should be a priority for careful excavation and detailed post-excavation programmes calling, if necessary, for external professional craftsmen’s help in elucidation of processes, ‘short cuts’ and techniques.
  • The processes behind the introduction and development of iron use in Scotland remain poorly understood.