Looking back over other syntheses and research frameworks, it is notable how often the same themes recur. The CBA’s nationwide survey (Hawkes & Piggott 1948, 94-9, 104-7) was framed in a diffusionist world view, but many of the issues are familiar: issues of chronology, regional patterning, ways of life on different settlements (with crannogs specified as a priority for investigation), the problem of hillforts (with a recommendation to sample the known types, followed by total excavation of a few), the lack of knowledge of burials and religion, and a sparsity of work on ‘industry and trade’. Progress has been made in all these areas, but as this document shows, all these topics are still current.
Historic Scotland’s rescue archaeology priorities (Barclay 1997) were necessarily more limited in outlook, and significant progress has been made on certain aspects. Knowledge of roundhouses and souterrains is now much better and something of the sequence to cropmark sites has been teased out in their identified key areas of south-east Scotland and Angus (Haselgrove 2009; Dunwell & Ralston 2008). Other topics remain current and valid: responses to environmental change; the primary use and internal structure of brochs; burials; the chronology and significance of decorated pottery; and the need to study the context of ‘stray finds’ of metalwork.
Other recent reviews have all looked at versions of the same themes. Most synthetic was Haselgrove et al’s (2001) UK-wide purview, which considered five themes: chronology; settlements, landscapes and people; material culture; regionality; and processes of change. Hingley (1992) split Scotland into Atlantic and non-Atlantic, and had a structure similar to this document in many ways: households/houses; communities/enclosed sites; regional organisation; production, circulation and consumption; ritual belief and deposition. Armit & Ralston (2003a) used a threefold division of Atlantic, east, and south-west, with a more limited focus on settlement, environment and economy which fitted the theme of the volume. This ScARF document has engaged with parts of the problem in a different way, to try to encourage integration different sources of evidence. In looking back to 1948, knowledge of and perspectives on the Iron Age have transformed dramatically, but many of the essential concerns of chronology, regionality and understanding settlements and material culture, remain.