9.6.2 Neolithic

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, no Neolithic archaeological human or animal bone has been identified to date from Perth and Kinross, or analysed for stable isotopes.

Considering Scotland as a whole, a fairly large amount of isotopic research focused on the Neolithic period has been conducted. These studies, which have largely concentrated on Orkney and other islands, have examined the nature of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition. Overall, they have contributed to the broader debate by evidencing either a short sharp shift in diet or conversely more gradual changes depending on the area/study in question (eg, Richards et al 2003; Bownes 2018). They have added to our understanding of marine resource use during the Neolithic period itself (eg, Montgomery et al 2013). Studies on Neolithic fauna have also been conducted, both to better understand human diet, but also to reconstruct past animal husbandry practices (eg, the practice of seaweed foddering and shorefront grazing in Neolithic Orkney and other Scottish islands, see Balasse et al 2006; Jones and Mulville 2016). Studies of human and faunal mobility also have great potential in this time period, as a means of understanding lifetime movements, human population mobility and the trade and circulation of animals/animal materials (ie using strontium, oxygen or sulphur isotopes). As with earlier periods, mostly due to poor preservation or to a dearth of previous investigation/dating of suspected Neolithic human and animal bone from Perth and Kinross, there has been a lack of isotopic investigation of Neolithic material from this area. Were archaeological materials to be found, any such studies should go hand in hand with radiocarbon dating at SUERC for example, maximising the return from destructive sampling of any new finds.

Cropmarks at Littleour, a Neolithic tomb in Perth and Kinross ©️ HES

Research Priorities

The cataloguing of collections of Neolithic human and animal material exist within Perth and Kinross or may be held in other national institutions, and originate from the region.

The radiocarbon dating of isolated unclassified prehistoric human burials in order to identify further material. This should be conducted as part of commercial work, local museum or heritage initiatives or research projects. The dating of existing museum collections, as well as new finds, should be considered a priority.

Given that stable carbon, nitrogen and sulphur isotope data can be generated alongside radiocarbon dates in some institutions (eg at SUERC), such an approach should be undertaken to maximise initial destructive sampling of any skeletons.