6.7.2 Movement of Objects, Raw Materials and Ideas

The links between the Highland Region and Ireland as shown in the isotopic signature of the Culduthel male (Chapter 6.7.1) are also reflected in the results of compositional analyses of copper and bronze artefacts found in the region. These objects were made using copper from Ross Island, southwest Ireland (Northover 2003; O’Brien 2004). This includes the bronze dagger found in a boat-shaped Early Bronze Age log coffin at Seafield West, Inverness (MHG3944; Cressey and Sheridan 2003; Case Study Seafield West Bronze Age Cemetery). An adjacent wooden ‘cist’ contained a Bipartite Bowl Food Vessel of distinctively Irish style, and elsewhere, in the Early Bronze Age cemetery at Armadale (MHG60879)on Skye, two Food Vessels also show strong links with their Irish counterparts (Sheridan 2011a; Case Study Armadale Cist Burial). Ireland was important as the major supplier of copper at the time, and Irish copper made the ‘Migdale-Marnoch industry’ of bronze artefact production possible (Needham 2004; Chapter; Chapter 6.5.2). Evidence for the links with Ireland continue over the Bronze Age, with numerous Late Bronze Age bronze and gold artefacts showing close stylistic links with Irish counterparts. The jewellery and dress accessories from the hoard at Heights of Brae (MHG8921; Clarke and Kemp 1984; Case Study Heights of Brae Hoard) are of Irish style, and it is hoped that further research on their composition might reveal whether they had been imported from Ireland as is suspected. Moreover, Bradley (2011) has drawn parallels between the small henges in Highland Region and ring barrows in Ireland (Chapter 6.6.3) .

Corroded bronze dagger blade.
Dagger from the log burial at Seafield West after conservation. ©Susan Kruse

Other artefacts and raw materials represent island wide movements: bloodstone from Rum, which was found, for example, at Home Farm, Portree on Skye (MHG51648; Ballin 2018, 247), jet from Whitby, tin from southwest England, flint from outwith the Highlands (see Chapter 6.5.2). The evidence also suggests movements within the Highlands. At Lairg (ScARF Case Study: The Lairg Project), Early Bronze Age cannel coal disc beads, a Middle Bronze Age bangle fragment of shale or canneloid shale and a Middle Bronze age bead roughout of albertite were all made of materials that had to be brought into the site. The shale could well have come from around Brora and the albertite from Strathpeffer (Sheridan et al 1998). Moreover, the steatite (talc) used as a filler for some of the pottery is not local. All of these materials can be found within 50km of Lairg, and could have been obtained by exchange within an extensive network of contacts. It remains to be seen whether the steatite-tempered pottery had been imported as pottery or as steatite for crushing.

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