6.9 Research recommendations

From the detailed research recommendations in the foregoing, the following can be drawn out as priorities:

  •  Enquiry must move to a situation where regions can be compared on a more equal footing. Some key ‘black holes’ sittingbetween other better understood areasare immediate targets for research (e.g. Fife, between the Lothians and Angus; the western seaboard between Galloway and Argyll; the central and western Highlands.
  • Programmes of sample excavation provide a valid and cost-effective approach to obtaining a first-stage model of settlement sequence in a region.
  • A key question is the visibility and representativity of known settlement patterns.
    • Open settlements appear under-represented in many parts of lowland Scotland except in pockets where cropmark production is good) – this requires investigation, possibly by an alternative method of remote sensing.
    • Procedures for the detection of any ‘invisible’ component of the settlement pattern, such as simple houses with turf walls or otherwise lacking foundations, are needed, as this has a profound impact on how the demography as well as the spatial organisation of prehistoric societies are modelled.
  • The nature of broch villages remains unclear, as the evidence for contemporaneity of broch and village is not always strong, although at some phases the two were in concurrent use – when did this happen, and what does it represent in terms of social forms?
  • The relationship of settlements to the inherited landscape and the deliberate reuse of earlier sites are both key topics for further work.
  • Why did people choose to inhabit places such as hilltops, promontories jutting into the ocean and artificial islands in lochs? There is a need not only to study the setting of sites but also to try to reach a better understanding of how landscapes were conceived.
  • There is no overall picture regarding the role of ‘hillforts’, whether as tribal capitals, (seasonal) meeting places, elite residences, or other functions and it is likely that their role varied across time and space. This impacts directly on social models for the Iron Age; regionally-based diachronic models are a key desiderata.
  • What lies behind the diversity of enclosure forms in some areas? A regionally-structured review of the classification and social context of enclosed places is required.
  • The lack of dating evidence for enclosed sites is an issue across the board, as it is a severe constraint in understanding them. ‘Key-hole’ work offers the prospect of obtaining at least an outline chronology in an area relatively quickly, but with the caveat that such approaches will inevitably simplify each site sequence and can only produce a first-stage model.
  • The lack of evidence for activities within enclosed sites, due to limited work in enclosure interiors, is a severe constraint, as are the difficulties in connecting interior activity to enclosure sequences. Geophysical survey offers a cost-effective approach to assessing enclosure interiors in favourable circumstances.
  • The nature of the largest forts (e.g. Traprain Law, Eildon Hill North, Burnswark) in relation to the wider settlement sequence remains an area requiring further work.

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