The framework has identified the following key future research areas and issues:
- Knowledge of the prehistoric period is fundamental to the protohistoric period: these must be studied together. “Early historic” or early medieval projects, whether driven by research or by site-threat mitigation, must, in addition have a strong prehistoric programme. For example, medieval sites, including monastic enclosures and burials, should be studied with prehistoric ritual practices in mind.
- Belief was regional and creative until at least the later 8th century. In this first protohistoric period research should be seeking to define, compare and contrast these local systems through integrated studies of portable material culture, monumentality and landscape. This will lead to an intellectual mapping and history of this most inventive religious phase in Scotland.
- Collaborative working should be promoted, particularly with Scandinavia and Ireland in mind as there is a strong case for including Scandinavian and Irish prehistory as an analogic basis for the story of Scotland, as well as the necessary Classics and Anglo-Saxon archaeology or Medieval history. Pictish and Irish sculpture for example needs to be studied in a broader art historical context (i.e. making use of European prehistoric imagery as well as Mediterranean Classical imagery), as well as in a broader local context.
- The need for a new corpus of Scotland’s early medieval sculpture would revitalise this area of interdisciplinary study and promote its wider international comparison and understanding.
- There is a need to identify and classify medieval relics and create a corpus.
- The study, survey and excavation of a number of types of site would considerably improve our understanding of Medieval Scotland, including:
- Cemeteries – full excavation of an early medieval cemetery with well-preserved skeletal remains, an extensive programme of dating (incorporating first millennium AD to explore continuities/discontinuities with the Iron Age), and subsequent post-excavation analysis taking account of the fluidity of their ethnic signals (e.g. Pictish, British, Gaelic/Scots, Scandinavian etc.).
- Early churches – excavation of early churches particularly where they are not overlain by medieval structures is a priority as there are almost no pre-12th century stone church buildings. An abandoned church, with documentary or carved stone evidence of early medieval origins would represent an ideal site for exploration.