Scotland's Archaeological Periods and Ages (ScAPA)

Archaeologists in Scotland have in the past experienced difficulty reaching a uniform consensus concerning historical periods and date ranges and there is no single agreed published list of Scottish periods for use in consistently indexing cultural heritage datasets of artefacts, monuments and sites. Such lists do exist in England and other countries and there is a need for initiatives to provide a possible way forward.

Those working with archaeological periods have long acknowledged the lack of useful scope notes- these are short statements that broaden out what a period term means or relates to. Scope notes are used in CANMORE, HER's and other databases and are restricted to 254 characters in length, but that can be increased to 500 or even 750 characters.

Current work by Peter McKeague (Historic Environment Scotland), Ceri Binding (University of South Wales) and others is focused on refining these statements to make them more useful for those unfamiliar with the terms. 

The idea is to get away from statements like the following:

Neolithic: The New Stone Age, this period follows on from the Palaeolithic and the Mesolithic and is itself succeeded by the Bronze Age. This period is characterised by the practice of a farming economy and extensive monumental constructions.

Late Neolithic: The third and latest subdivision of the Neolithic or New Stone Age.

and move towards statements more like:

The Neolithic, or New Stone Age, sees the transition from hunter gatherer to farming economies. Monumental architecture, including chambered cairns, develops. Pottery is first used and stone tool technologies become more sophisticated.

The latest implementation report by the ScAPA team is now available here 

ScAPA have also released the draft work on the heritagedata.org website: which provides a Linked Data Resource. This creates persistent URLs of each term in the vocabulary. The data may also be downloaded in PDF Format 

One way to refine existing statements is to let those who use them suggest changes, so the scope notes draft can be found here on the ScARF website so that those interested can read them and return comments.

Download the Scope notes as a Word File here 

Comments can be added below or returned to Peter McKeague (peter.mckeague [at] hes [dot] scot