8.3 Settlement


Despite increasing burial and environmental evidence and a number of diagnostic objects, all showing the presence of people throughout the Highlands in the early medieval period, there is very little evidence of the types of settlements people lived in or structures themselves. The historical evidence suggests that the land division of davochs may well go back into the Pictish period, providing a basis for taxation and duties, and even underlying religious parishes. See Ross (2011, 14ff) for a detailed discussion of evidence and interpretations.  This evidence presents possible implications for landscape management, and leads to questions of how archaeologists might identify this evidence in the archaeological record. Table 8.2 provides a list of all dated evidence related to settlement in the early medieval period.

SiteAreaDatesLab NoEvidenceCommentsSource
Brotchie’s SteadingCAD 420-620; AD 550-670 AD 710-980 AD 770-980SUERC-6711; SUERC-6715; SUERC-6712; SUERC-6706Hearth, gully, occupation layers MHG46260; Holden et al 2008; Case Study; Brotchies Steading
Freswick LinksCAD 580-798 AD 640-862 AD 694-1000 AD 540-980 AD 240-670 AD 230-865GU-2284
Bone near dune Bone near s. cliff Bone near s. cliff Seed near cliff Seed near south cliff Seed near north cliff MHG1669
Morris et al 1995; Case Study; Freswick Links  
Kilearnan HillSAD 220-620GU-1918Occupation layer (charcoal)Roundhouse (Hut 4) excavated in 1980sMHG9986; McIntyre 1998
Dornoch Business ParkS

AD 675-878
AD 774-994
AD 773-994
AD 774-1014
AD 775-1156
Pit with grains. Structure associated with metalworkingIndustrial activityMHG28197; Hastie 2008; Coleman & Photos-Jones 2008
PortmahomackERvariousMonastic workshopsIndustrial structuresMHG42936; Carver et al 2016
Dun Morangie, TarlogieERAD 235-385Beta-280908Floor level of remodelled Iron Age stone roundhousePossibly a metalworking workshop in this periodMHG8706; Hatherley 2015b
Broad CaveERAD 895-1022SUERC-63374Elm charcoal in possible middenCave; Rosemarkie Caves projectDates Steven Birch pers comm
Urquhart CastleIAD 450-660 AD 670-948 AD 650-1010 AD 690-1160GU-1768
Occupation layers from Early Medieval fortSamples taken from 1983 excavationMHG45240; Alcock and Alcock 1992, 242-267
Craig PhadrigIAD 343-654 AD 416-556Hillfort; Palisade ditch baseFirst date from 1970sMHG3809; Small & Cottram 1972; Peteranna & Birch 2018
Hatherley forthcoming
Culduthel, Inverness (Phase 7 & 8; Group 5 )IAD 570-655 AD 770-990Metalled surface and pits with industrial debrisPhase 7 and 8; Group 5. Preserved by hillwash; artefacts include unfinished iron dress hook, pinMHG56080; Hatherley & Murray 2021
Slackbuie, InvernessIAD 400-560SUERC-34984Pit MHG55813; Kilpatrick 2016
Torvean, InvernessIAD 410-540 AD 700-890 AD 890-990Grain drying kiln
Grain storage pit
Fire-pit or hearth
Mainly barley & oatsPeteranna 2019, 14
FanellanIAD 687-883 AD 777-984SUERC-62624
Pits with slagRe-use of Iron Age roundhouse for ironworkingMHG61055; Masson-Maclean 2014; Sneddon forthcoming
LochloyNAD 650-780SUERC-16046Pit MHG52442; Farrell 2007
LochloyNAD 680-890SUERC-16043Grain drying kiln MHG54241; Farrell 2007
Meall Mor (Rhue)WRAD 259-426SUERC-47084RoundhouseDate inside wall. Possibly re-use as animal penMHG7820; www.wedigs.co.uk
Applecross BrochWRAD 340-540SUERC-35369Soil overlying hearth slabsInside courtyardMHG7680; Peteranna 2012
Crowlin 1WRAD 650-852OxA-9250Midden in caveTest pitting. Multi-periodMHG34256; Hardy & Wickham-Jones 2009
Camusteel 2WRAD 686-881 AD 688-945 AD 777-989AA-50691
Midden in caveTest pitting. Multi-periodMHG37291; Hardy & Wickham-Jones 2009
Toscaig 9WRAD 625-984AA-50677Midden in rockshelterTest pitting. Multi-periodMHG58718; Hardy & Wickham-Jones 2009
Coille GaireallachSkyeAD 760-890SUERC-33771Oval building: SmithyTest pitting. LS08MHG61719; Wildgoose 2016
Coille GaireallachSkyeAD 664-778EnclosureLS06: re-used burnt mound siteMHG59428; MHG55550; Wildgoose 2016
Coille GaireallachSkyeAD 379-429GU-32926EnclosureLS14; Re-used EBA roundhouseMHG59526; Wildgoose 2016;
Uamh an DòbhrainSkyeAD 665-822GU-20361Midden in large caveLimited excavation. Multi-periodWildgoose 2014
RhiconichNWSAD 421-641GU-4245Round housePossibly non-domestic useMHG12143; Donnelly et al 1997
StronchrubieNWSAD 892-1014SUERC-43972Occupation layerRe-use of BA burnt moundMHG13052; Cavers et al 2013
Between Morar and ArisaigLAD 780-1020SUERC-2443Pit (fill) MHG58041; Carter et al 2005
Table 8.2 Dated settlement evidence for the Early Medieval Period
All dates cal at 95.4% probability. For full details of dates, see Datasheet 2.1

8.3.1 Landscape Patterns

8.3.2 Identifying the Settlements

8.3.3 Evidence of Buildings

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