Little archaeobotanical analysis has been carried out on post-medieval sites within the region, yet those that have been undertaken have provided a snapshot into everyday use of plants within the rural communities.
However, an excellent example of integrated analysis of both macroplant remains and thin section analysis has been carried out at Sunnybrae Cottage, Pitlochry (Holden and Walker 2012). The acquisition of the cottage by Historic Scotland in 1998 provided the rare opportunity to study in detail the development of a late 18th-century cottage that would have been common throughout the Highlands of Scotland during the post-medieval period.
No surviving macroplant remains were recovered from floor deposits or internal features of the cottage. Unfortunately no early hearth deposits were uncovered; however, surviving under the corrugated iron roof of the cottage were the remains of an earlier thatched roof, including intact turf layers and remnants of the cereal straw surface. Archaeobotanical analysis of the thatch revealed that the lowest courses of the eaves were formed by twigs of broom, with subsequent courses comprising alternative layers of turf and rye straw, with bracken used to repair the ridges. The rye straw had been threshed and cleaned of weeds, while oat tippets had been used to repair the thatch. Together the archaeobotanical and soil thin analysis showed that the thatching turfs were cut either from an area of heavily grazed pasture or from a previously stripped piece of ground with one to two years regenerative growth.
This work illustrates how sampling of macroplant remains from well-preserved post-medieval settlements/buildings, when uncovered, have the potential to reveal a wealth of information. These remains potentially provide evidence on diet, living conditions and status, whilst also giving information about the introduction and use of foods and other traded materials, particularly New World introductions and their spread throughout the region.
Excavations in 2002 at the site of the Cromwellian Citadel (Roy 2002) uncovered a large and rich assemblage of cereal grains. This consisted almost entirely of wheat grains, and it was evident that the charred remains represented a cleaned crop; the large amount of burnt grain likely a result of some sort of accident concerning processing or storage (Hastie 2002). During the 18th century there was a rapid growth of town populations and an increased demand for supplies in their centres. Improvement in agricultural practices allowed greater crop yields and improved infrastructure made it easier to transport corn to the markets in the urban centres. This led to the decline in rural corn mills and a move to larger mills situated closer to town and city centres (Gauldie 1999). During this period the main route into Perth from the south was re-directed so that it ran through South Inch and across the Cromwellian fortification. The large assemblage of burnt grain uncovered in this area suggests direct evidence of a store or mill situated on the outskirts of Perth during the 18th century.
To the author’s knowledge, there has been no dedicated archaeobotanical work on 20th century sites in Perth and Kinross.