The 1990s: Research and development, TAFAC and Treasure Trove
The early 1990s saw three major archaeological developments in the area. Firstly, two key RCAHMS surveys were published, which together encompassed the area north of the Tay estuary and east of the River Tay (1990; 1994). Providing a consistent knowledge base for this area, they in part addressed the absence of a county inventory. They also introduced a knowledge bias, however, with the much larger area west of the River Tay covered only by ad hoc field and aerial survey. Secondly, survey and excavation of the Cleaven Dyke from 1993–97 importantly confirmed this well-preserved and exceptional monument as a Neolithic cursus and bank barrow (Barclay and Maxwell 1998). Clearance of the site, initiated by Historic Scotland soon after, has unfortunately not been maintained and this remarkable site is under a new threat of natural woodland regeneration. Finally, the Roman Gask Project was established in 1995 to study the Roman remains on and around the Gask Ridge. It developed into a major research programme of over 20 years and has added considerably to our understanding of this important aspect of the region’s Iron Age (Woolliscroft 2002; Woolliscroft and Hoffmann 2006).
Local authority archaeology services and Sites and Monuments Records (SMRs) were more firmly placed within the local planning process with the publication of National Planning Policy Guideline (NPPG) 5: Archaeology and Planning (Scottish Office 1994a) and Planning Advice Note (PAN) 42: Archaeology – the Planning Process and Scheduled Monuments Procedures (Scottish Office 1994b). Some Scottish local authorities, including Perth & Kinross Council however, continued without appointing appropriately trained and resourced staff, relying on under-resourced Perth Museum staff to comment on planning applications, using ‘pre-SMR’ data (Baker 1999, 16; 101). Medieval Perth continued to be the focus of much of this work (Bowler et al 1996), including detailed discussions of street frontages (Moloney and Coleman 1997), burgage plots and backlands (Coleman 1997; Cox et al 1996), the harbour (Bowler and Cachart 1994) and the use and role of iron (Photos-Jones and Atkinson 1999).
The later 1990s also saw two other important developments in the area, however. The first was the establishment of the annual Tayside and Fife Archaeological Committee (TAFAC) journal from 1996, which has made a considerable contribution to the area by showcasing new discoveries in addition to their annual conference. Important early papers covered early medieval Meigle (Ritchie 1995; Barclay 2001); Bronze Age metalwork from Kinnoull (O’Connor and Cowie 1997); settlement in Strathbraan (Cowley 1997); Croft Moraig stone circle (Barclay 2000) and pit-defined cursus monuments (Brophy 2000); the Crieff Burgh Cross (Hall et al 2000) and artefacts from medieval Perth (Hall and Owen 1998; Crone et al 2000). Secondly, the crannog reconstruction on Loch Tay was built between 1994 and 1997 as an experimental archaeology project, led by Nicholas Dixon and Barrie Andrian, based on their underwater research carried out through the Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology (STUA). The Scottish Crannog Centre, opened in 1997, is run by The Scottish Crannog Centre Trust. Initially operating as a successful visitor attraction and educational venue, in recent years it has shifted to become an accredited museum, achieving museum status in 2018. It continues to make a significant contribution to communicating life in the Iron Age to the public, within a wider remit of immersive education, investment in young people through training and apprenticeship schemes and extensive community engagement. The loss of the reconstruction through a fire in 2021, after a quarter of a century of use, was a tragedy. Fortunately, the Scottish Crannog Centre has received widespread support to develop their plans for a new, larger site, also on Loch Tay.
The significant growth in metal-detecting in Scotland over the last 30 years has been challenging, and Perth and Kinross has frequently been the focus of intense activity. Ancient Monuments legislation and local authority bye laws determine where this can, or rather cannot, take place. The principal legislation governing the activity is the Treasure Trove system, rooted in the Scottish common law regulations of Treasure Trove and bona vacantia (‘ownerless goods’). Ultimately derived from medieval feudal law, the laws protect portable antiquities of all periods and ensure their preservation for the nation’s benefit. The system works through the Treasure Trove Unit, which reports to the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel, which in turn reports to the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer in the Crown Office. There is a legal requirement to report discoveries through a published process and guidelines. While the history and operation of the system has been regularly debated (Sheridan 1995; Hall 1996; Saville 2002 and 2009; Curtis 2007), Treasure Trove remains the key determinant in the local and national collecting of archaeological finds (from excavation as well as metal-detecting). The majority of material is now allocated at a local level to registered museums. The volumes of material have increased in the last decade, bringing into focus the financial burden imposed by rewards for finders and storage constraints faced by all museums. The system now allocates more material to local museums than it does to the National Museums Scotland and it is successfully made available for research and display.
For Perth and Kinross, the principal repository remains Perth Museum & Art Gallery (operated by Culture Perth & Kinross on behalf of Perth & Kinross Council), a committed agent for the collection, research and display of archaeological finds, resources permitting. Perth Museum has made a significant contribution to research of finds and artefacts and their landscape context over the last 25 years (Hall 2001; 2005; 2007; 2011, 2015; 2020; 2021). Notable displays include The Carpow Bronze Age logboat (2012); A Loch of Bronze: New Finds from Kinrosshire’s Bronze Age (2013, at Kinross Museum); Breadalbane Bling! (2015); Cradle of Scotland (2016) and Edge of Empire (2021). These are frequently an outcome of research programmes, and are often in collaboration with local, regional and national partners, with several notable publications as a result (Cowie et al 1996; Strachan 2010; Hall et al 2020; Campbell and Driscoll 2020 and Brophy and Noble 2020).
The 21st century: Development management, agri-environment and citizen science
In 2000, the issue of the lack of consistent, well-resourced archaeological planning advice for the local authority was finally resolved. Initially supported by Historic Scotland, a planning archaeology service was established by Perth and Kinross Council, delivered on their behalf by Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust (PKHT). Importantly, advice was based on a new, GIS-based Sites and Monuments Record (SMR), developed from the then National Monuments Record for Scotland (NMRS) and paper-based records held by Perth Museum. This new SMR was soon upgraded to a Historic Environment Record (HER) through enhancement projects, including an Urban Archaeological Database (UAD), county-wide polygonisation and the inclusion of historic building data. It remains the information base on which professional, objective advice is based regarding the need for archaeological mitigation in advance of new development. Areas of archaeological sensitivity are mapped out in Local Development Plans (LDP) and all planning applications are assessed for potential archaeological impact. Archaeological mitigation now embraces a suite of techniques including field evaluation, monitoring, full excavation and historic building recording. PKHT is a member of the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO), a network of curatorial development management archaeologists who work for, or on behalf of, local government and the National Parks whose task is to protect, manage and promote the historic environment. Collectively, ALGAO Scotland are key stakeholders in ensuring the HER and appropriate historic environment mitigation are fully represented both in current and future policy. Alongside the LDP, this provides the backbone for information-based decision-making as part of the curatorial role for development management. Working with colleagues such as local authority planners, it ensures the best outcome for the archaeological resource in developments across Perth and Kinross and is vital to successful implementation of policy and guidance. In addition, and as a result of their key role in the planning process, development-led, commercial archaeology now provides the majority of evidence for past human activity across the UK, funding excavation, post-excavation analysis and publication to preserve remains by record where preservation in situ is not possible.
Since 2000, there has been the continual pressure of new housing developments, varying in scale from single house builds to medium to large-scale construction projects, with recent large-scale infrastructure projects. All have contributed significantly to our understanding of the archaeology of the area, with small-scale developments often contributing as much as larger ones. Selected small, medium and large-scale developments that have produced significant results since 2010 are shown in Figure 8. The introduction of wind farms to the area since that date have resulted in the first significant developer-funded work in the uplands. Likewise, large-scale linear infrastructure projects have also had a major impact, notably through the Beauly-Denny power line (Sneddon forthcoming), and the ongoing A9 dualling programme and Cross Tay Link. These offer invaluable opportunities to study change across large landscape zones, albeit through a relatively narrow linear window.
The Countryside Stewardship Scheme, introduced in 1991, was the first in a series of agri-environment schemes (followed by the Rural Stewardship Scheme and then Scottish Rural Development Programme), to provide government subsidies for enhanced agriculture, including management of the historic environment. In Scotland, archaeological audits were required as part of the application process, and while they at least provided historic environment information to land managers, enhanced management of archaeological sites as a result was disappointing overall.
Forestry and Land Scotland, the Scottish Government agency charged with managing Scotland’s national forests and land (previously Forest Enterprise Scotland, an agency of Forestry Commission Scotland), appointed an archaeologist in 2008. This has seen the work of ensuring archaeological walkover surveys in advance of afforestation expanded to include a focus on archaeological measured survey of significant sites, and conservation management and research excavation, as at the four poster stone circle of Na Clachan Aoraidh (Ellis and Ritchie 2018); and outdoor archaeological learning, publishing a range of learning resources (Barnett et al 2021). Scottish Forestry, the Scottish Government agency charged with regulation of the forestry sector to meet the UK Forestry Standard which includes robust historic environment guidelines, has also published a range of supporting guidance notes. These include the Historic Environment Resource Guide for Forest and Woodland Managers in Scotland (Forestry Commission Scotland 2017).
A number of research projects were also carried out which, to some degree, engaged the local community with the aim of developing skills and promoting understanding of the historic environment. From 2001–6, the Ben Lawers Historic Landscape Project significantly enhanced understanding of activity north of Loch Tay over millennia. It was important due to its scale, multi-disciplinary nature (Atkinson 2016) and the inclusion of volunteers and students. While much smaller, Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust’s Black Spout project, carried out between 2005–9 (Strachan 2013), was an early community archaeology project of the type that became increasingly common from around 2010. This focused on community and student engagement to contribute to a neglected research narrative, while developing skills and bringing social cohesion. The Trust also carried out a ‘rescue’ excavation to recover the Bronze Age Carpow logboat in 2006. The nature of the project precluded volunteer involvement, but the study of a single artefact resulted in a wider landscape study (Strachan 2010). Another major landscape study, the Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot (SERF) project, was carried out between 2006–16 as the field school of the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen. It also engaged local volunteers in exploring the archaeology of Forteviot, Dunning and Forgandenny (Noble et al 2017; Brophy and Noble 2020; Campbell and Driscoll 2020).
While the ‘professionalisation’ of archaeology through the planning process has brought the benefits of a consistent approach and significant resources, it has also commonly excluded local communities. However, the last decade or so has seen the emergence of community archaeology more fully, in part as a result of funding opportunities through the National Lottery Heritage Fund (previously the Heritage Lottery Fund). Given Margaret Stewart’s previous engagement of local groups in fieldwork, this might better be described as a resurgence, and it is apt that Perth and Kinross has often been at the forefront.
PKHT led the annual celebration that began in 2003 as Perthshire Archaeology Week, developed with the Perthshire Tourist Board, and delivered with a range of partners including the Scottish Crannog Centre, Perth Museum and several local history and archaeology societies. PKHT has also led a series of community heritage projects: Bridging Perthshire’s Past (2008–11): the Loch Tay logboat reconstruction (2009); Historic Churchyards project (2011–13) and the Tay Landscape Partnership (2014–18), a £2.6 million initiative which included a suite of archaeology and historic building projects (Ballin and Nicol 2017; Strachan et al forthcoming). Programmes of community archaeology were also delivered by Dr Oliver O’Grady at Fortingall (2010–11) and in Kinross, both on St Serf’s Island on Loch Leven (O’Grady 2017) and through the Living Lomonds Landscape Partnership (2013–16), and Our Portmoak (2017) projects. Kinross also saw the crossover of a development-led excavation leading to community-led research at Kilmagadwood Early Bronze Age cemetery (Sheridan et al 2018). Building on earlier work, PKHT’s ‘citizen science’ model has also investigated early medieval settlement through the Glenshee Archaeology Project (2012–18) which was designed to follow on from publication of the Pitcarmick-type buildings. More recently, excavations at the King’s Seat Archaeology Project (2016–20), have confirmed a royal fort at Dunkeld (Strachan et al 2019 and Strachan and MacIver forthcoming).
Other important recent research, not mentioned above, has included the re-excavation of Croft Moraig stone circle (Bradley 2016) following work by Piggott and Simpson (1971); the discovery of a Middle Bronze Age dirk from the River Tay at Perth (Cowie et al 2011); 18th-century military roads and bridges (Farquharson 2012) and the archaeology of the Scottish Command Line, a series of anti-tank ‘stop-lines’ from 1940 (Barclay 2011). The potential of applying new techniques to exiting artefacts, and for future excavations, has been highlighted by papers on medieval ceramics from Perth (Hughes and Hall 2019) and for multi-isotope analysis of skeletal remains (Czére et al 2021). New technology also continues to promise significant scope for new discovery. For example, the development of Airborne Laser Scanning, or LiDAR, has the potential to revolutionise how we understand upland archaeology in the way the recovery of cropmark information did over the 1960s–70s.
In conclusion, Perth and Kinross has a rich and vibrant history of archaeological research, a strong and active research profile. It has a future full of potential with research conducted by a range of commercial, community-based and academic organisations. The results of this research are not only valuable for understanding past human activity in this area, but importantly also contribute to the national narrative. It is therefore critical that ongoing and future research is formulated to fit with both national and regional priorities, and in that respect this framework will have a key role.