4.9 Research recommendations

• The establishment of a national online database and publication/report repository on mammal, fish, and bird bone collections from Scottish archaeological sites, which would highlight areas in Scotland with good preservation conditions for bone, safeguard raw data that may remain unpublished and make it available to future generations of researchers, including scientists responsible for present and future management of fish, bird and animal populations.

• Active promotion of new collaborative research between biologists with expertise in living Scottish species, facilities housing important reference collections, organisations curating important ethnographic  and historical archives, and archaeologists and bioarchaeologists working on Scottish remains, through a series of workshops aimed at the development of new project proposals addressing large and important themes such as the biogeography of Scottish faunas (colonisations, introductions, extinctions, etc).

• Provision of environmental archaeology expertise and advice within Historic Scotland, which could develop national recommendations for sampling, recovery, data archiving and management, and public dissemination of the results of environmental archaeology studies.

• The establishment of a network of environmental archaeologists/palaeoecologists and archaeological consultancy firms in Scotland, in order to improve the flow of information about benefits and costs of particular sampling strategies and techniques, and assemblages that are available for study. This could begin with a series of workshops and short courses to facilitate introductions and discussions between archaeological scientists and commercial archaeologists, and should lead to the establishment of a directory of specialists who are willing to be contacted by field practitioners with queries.

• Active promotion, funding, and integration of cutting-edge methods such as the analysis of testate amoebae, chironomids, lipid biomarkers, phytoliths, soil micromorphology, isotopes, tooth abrasion and hypoplasia, and coprophilous fungal spores and other non-pollen palynomorphs in Scottish archaeology in order to enhance the understanding of past environments, stresses and coping strategies, and the vulnerability and resilience of past communities in Scotland.


Could potentially include:

  1. It is essential that geoarchaeological expertise be consulted and integrated at an early stage in the research design.
  2. It is important to stress that in regards to prospecting for potential sites that the palaeo-landscape should be treated as a continuous entity from the coastal corridor through the intertidal to offshore, rather than splitting it at the present day coastline.
  3. Charcoal fragments can be examined for more than just identification to family/species identification.
  4. More research into the weed seeds collected from sites may increase our understanding of the different farming (cultivation, harvesting and processing) methods employed throughout history and prehistory.
  5. It is apparent from the above that there are significant gaps in the early prehistoric faunal record for much of Mainland Scotland and for the later historic in all regions outwith the major urban centres. A research programme identifying and targeting sites of the relevant date in specific geographic areas which are more likely to preserve faunal remains could help redress this deficit. Of particular potential are lacustrine environments and near-shore marine deposits.
  6. There is a need to ensure that museums and other archives do not unintentionally allow an overexploitation of the archaeofaunal resource, particularly for periods or species that may be significant in terms of their quantity or biogeography, while at the same time allowing adequate access to this material. Developing national guidelines for destructive sampling should be one response to this issue.
  7. Facilitating access to published faunal reports and grey literature through development of a publication repository for Scotland, similar to that provided by the ADS, is thus a priority for future development in this area.
  8. The potential for palaeoentomological data from Scotland to detail the rapid climatic transition from the Lateglacial to the Holocene and the more subtle climate changes during the Holocene is great, and could be used, for example, to examine the putative effects of climate change on human settlement during the Bronze Age, when there are extensive shifts in cultivation limits and upland settlement, the reasons for which are disputed.
  9. In the foreseeable future, the main applications of pollen analysis will (and should) be to continue to provide the environmental context from which discussion of the archaeological record may begin.
  10. It cannot be expected in the current economic climate that commercial excavation units will employ geomorphologists, but accessing specialist workers  can be made much easier by a register of workers and their interests: