A decisive factor in this political process was naturally one of organised violence, and the archaeology of conflict offers particular opportunities in Scotland, not least through specialised expertise here in the form of Glasgow’s Centre for Battlefield Archaeology. The archaeology of conflict has grown in sophistication in recent decades, to the point at which conflict-related material culture can be traced in many aspects of the archaeological record. The ethnic complexities of early Scotland can be especially illuminated here, as well as the major arcs of international tension and stress that affected the development of the nation.
An important recent development in the field has been the preparation of an Inventory of Scottish Battlefields by Historic Scotland, work which has largely been carried out by the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, with early collaboration by Glenn Foard of the Battlefield Trust’s Resource Centre. The aim of the Inventory is to highlight the importance of the battlefields included within it (currently numbering over 20) and to make them a material consideration in the planning process. This concern with the conservation and management of battlefields is a key indicator of the importance now being placed on these sites. It should be noted however that the Inventory is not exhaustive and numerous other sites of conflict, including battlefields which currently cannot be located, skirmishes and siege sites, exist in Scotland – many of these have the potential to add to knowledge through their archaeological traces.
Feeding into the Battlefield’s Inventory but also representing a vital development in its own right is the increasing number of archaeological investigation of battlefields, using a well-tested suite of methodologies – though standardization of these by archaeological contractors is vital if meaningful evaluations and mitigation works are to be carried out on battlefields. Again, it is presumed that the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology will place a key role here. The exact site of few medieval battles has been identified archaeologically, though a large project is currently underway at Bannockburn in advance of the 700th anniversary.