‘The British military field … presents rare opportunities to the unprejudiced enquirer’
(Richmond in Hawkes and Piggott 1948, 58)
The foregoing sections have ranged widely across the field of Roman archaeology in Scotland, and have hopefully demonstrated the substantial leaps forward from the focus on military dispositions and chronology of earlier generations, although this is not to deny the importance of such topics, which play to key strengths of the data. In attempting to draw these ideas together, a number of key strands for research have been identified.
The value of data
Roman Scotland produces rich, dense data which should be celebrated and used to the full. Too often the data-rich Roman period is stereotyped by outsiders as obsessed with arcane detail, yet this very richness provides an invaluable resource to engage with detailed data-informed interpretations. The wealth of information allows more complex interpretations to be discussed and critiqued. The minutiae of the data, the traditional concern of Roman studies, should also be engaged with; so much is known of the pattern of Roman forts and camps, for instance, that it is of great value to try to fill the known gaps. The shifting chronology of contact makes it possible to look at the details of frontier systems (and thus the meaning and purpose of frontiers) in a way rarely possible in such detail elsewhere. The existing dataset also contains material which has barely been tapped – such as surveys of forts (for questions of landscape setting, for instance) or the rich finds assemblages in museums. Something of the potential of these resources has been explored above.
Roman military sites should be seen in a broader landscape context, looking beyond the fort, as absolutely fundamental to future study. We have explored aspects of the interlocking landscapes which may be explored in this document, including links to non-military landscapes. To do justice to this resource requires two main things:
- Development-control archaeology should look as standard in the hinterland of forts (up to c.1 km from the ‘core’), even where nothing is currently known. Examples such as Inveresk, Newstead and Cramond show the density of activity around such nodes, and it should not be assumed that these are exceptional.
- Integrated approaches to military landscapes, bringing in topographical and aerial survey, LiDAR, geophysics, and the use of stray and metal-detected finds, as well as fieldwalking and, ultimately, excavation.
The Over-arching questions
There are several focal areas where Roman archaeology in Scotland can contribute significantly to much larger debates.
- Integrating the Roman presence in the story of what went before and after
- Considering the effect on contemporary indigenous societies, to develop more complex perspectives on what the impact of (and on) Rome was, and the reactions to this
- Linking Roman Scotland and its rich data set to wider theoretical perspectives (e.g. current concerns with issues of ethnicity and identity)
- Keeping Roman Scotland integrated in wider Roman frontier studies, both drawing from and adding to perspectives in other areas. The tight chronological framework of Scottish sites is a particular strength here.