10.4.3 Material Culture

The National ScARF places a welcome emphasis on material culture. Artefacts are of particular importance for assessing changes within Highland society and transport of goods. This allows researchers to move to a more sophisticated understanding of the relationship between the demand for luxuries and changes in estates. It was not just the lairds who were becoming conspicuous consumers. The lack of surviving inventories is a challenge which interdisciplinary work by historians and archaeologists will help to overcome. There are a host of questions to address:

  • how unequal was society?
  • how far down the social scale did items go?
  • where did items come from?
  • where were they made?
  • how were they distributed?

No one source covers the material culture of post-medieval Scotland much less the Highlands, although a broad sweep was undertaken by Calder (1989) and certain artefact types have been the focus of attention. Brochard (2015) has made significant strides in the study of the early modern period material culture in the Highlands. The discussion below is not comprehensive but highlights some diagnostic finds, known from the Highlands, and considers what they can tell us.

A number of Highland museums have collections rich in Highland material culture dating to this period, but this material is little known. At the least, online catalogues with images would be the first step to making this material better available. Ceramics Metalwork Clothing and Dress Wood Clay Pipes and Snuff Boxes Stone Tools Aspects of Daily Life

Leave a Reply