1.1 Background and Focus

The Perth and Kinross Archaeological Research Framework (PKARF) deals with the local authority area of Perth and Kinross, in the heart of Scotland. Apart from the Tay corridor, it is land-locked and covers around 5,286 square kilometres. It is the fifth largest unitary authority in Scotland, bordering the Aberdeenshire, Angus, City of Dundee, Fife, Clackmannanshire, Stirling, Argyll and Bute and Highland council areas. The underlying geology of the area has resulted in the broad geographical division of the Highland and Lowland zones, divided by the Highland Boundary Fault. Both contain a wide range of landscape types, each of which contain varied topography, vegetation and land use. These rich and varied landscapes have been the primary influence on human settlement and activity over the last 14,000 years (Strachan 2011, 2–11). How best to focus future research into the physical remains of this activity is the overriding aim of the framework.

Map of Perth and Kinross with coloured areas showing different types of landscape, such as orange for lowland hills and dark green for broad glens with estates. The map is split with a diagonal line for Uplands and Lowlands.
Landscape Character Types and the main geographical placenames used ©️ PKHT 

Perth and Kinross has seen several outstanding programmes of archaeological research over the last 100 years. While most of this research has been thematically based, planning and infrastructure projects over the last 30 years have both increased fieldwork and focused work geographically on development sites. This activity has not been evenly distributed across the region, however; it has largely taken place in areas of modern settlement and with greater emphasis on the lowlands. The last decade has seen this bias alleviated, to some degree, through, for example, wind farms and major infrastructure projects, and the emergence, or arguably re-emergence, of community-led research.

The national Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF 2012) assessed what was then known about Scottish archaeology as a whole and made recommendations for areas of future research. The value of greater geographical resolution was soon recognised, however, and in March 2017 Historic Environment Scotland (HES) hosted a symposium to outline the delivery of regional frameworks. In 2018, Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust (PKHT) began to develop PKARF. The overarching aim has been to assess current knowledge of human activity through the archaeological record, and from this benchmark, identify knowledge gaps and establish research priorities and questions. The intended use of the PKARF is to inform effective future management of the archaeological resource, and guide ongoing and future research, whether developer, academic or community led. The framework also aspires to help to make the historic environment an educational tool and an asset that enriches people’s lives and strengthens community through a sense of place and identity.

At the time of writing (July 2022) the Perth and Kinross Historic Environment Record (HER) contains information on 12,129 archaeological sites and finds, not including records held by Perth Museum, and there are an estimated 15,000 pre-1919 historic buildings and structures. Only a small percentage of this finite asset are protected through designations, however: 677 Scheduled Monuments, 41 Gardens and Designed Landscapes, 4 Designated Battlefields, 3,551 Listed Buildings and 36 Conservation Areas. The vast majority rely on good stewardship by owners, including the local authority, and protection through the relevant planning legislation. The HER is the key tool in the management of sites through the latter, and the current knowledge base which informs decision-making around that process. In terms of wider research, the HER is complemented by several national datasets, primarily including Historic Environment Scotland’s Pastmap and Canmore databases, and the extensive archives held in the National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE).

This introduction provides landscape context for the area and a brief history of research before around 1990, followed by a more detailed account of work over the last 30 years through development-led archaeology, the Treasure Trove system and community archaeology. An outline of the project’s aims, methodology and policy context is then followed by notes on the document’s structure, chronological and geographical terms and monument types used, and the use of radiocarbon dates.