The material culture from Perth and Kinross is nationally significant where it exists, and preserved in a range of local and national museums and in many churches, but there are some gaps in some key areas. It is nationally significant in the following areas:
- Material dating to around AD 700–900, particularly dress items, craftworking debris and carved stones.
- Connections with the material culture of Ireland, apparent especially in early Christian material culture such as handbells; dress items such as the Breadalbane Brooch and several finds of Hiberno-Norse ring-pins; and a hoard of Dublin pennies from Dull.
- Early Christianity, particularly carved stones and metalwork shrines/reliquaries; more than a third of all handbells from Scotland are from Perth and Kinross.
- Early medieval penannular brooch typology, with important examples from Tummel Bridge, Aldclune, Loch Clunie, a modified pseudo-pennanular brooch from ‘Breadalbane’ and a broken penannular brooch from Cambusmichael.
- Pre-burghal settlement archaeology: the early medieval origins of Perth were established largely by dating carbon residues from ceramic alongside other diagnostic finds.
Areas of good or emerging potential for new research are:
- Early medieval metalworking and other craft production, particularly linked to forts such as Dundurn and the King’s Seat, but also blacksmithing at Lair.
- Upland settlement, especially byre-houses and the material culture of transhumance.
- Distribution and dating of imported glass beads, given numerous finds across the region.
- Viking Age and Hiberno-Norse material culture, bolstered by recent finds from excavation and metal-detecting in combination with reassessment of museum collections.
- The importance of communication routes through the landscape – the distribution of handbells and hoards of early metalwork can be placed alongside the main east-west routes across the Drumalban range, and key north-south routes between the glens. The stray finds of horse-harness gear, primarily of 8th to 9th-century date, also reveal major overland routes between power centres used in this period (Hall 2007a, 75–6).
- The sensorial perception of material culture and its significance to ritual performances in communicating with the supernatural and in the demonstration of power through movement and performance. This includes the use of colour, for example in the painting of monumental sculpture (an enquiry encouraged by recent studies of Roman sculpture – Campbell 2020) (Hall 2020).
Areas where the material culture resource in Perth and Kinross is lacking:
- Finds from the earlier part of the period, around 400–700, are limited mainly to the early imported ceramics from Dundurn and the King’s Seat; Anglo-Saxon finds from Aldclune, Fortingall and Lair; the recent discovery of a Pictish warrior stelae from Tulloch, Perth; and other non-diagnostic finds such as glass beads, querns and iron knives.
- Tools and domestic items such as axes, spindle whorls, gaming pieces which can be indicators of high status, etc.
- Finds other than carved stones from early church sites.
- Organic materials such as textiles, basketry and wooden objects may well survive best at early medieval crannog sites, as at the royal crannog at Llangorse, Wales (Lane and Redknap 2019).
There is a need to find and identify material culture dating to the post-Roman and earlier part of the period around AD 400–700. The lack of artefacts from this period is a major gap in our knowledge of the development of the region in the immediate post-Roman period. This is particularly intriguing given the presence of major silver hoards showing the recycling of late Roman silver in surrounding districts: Gaulcross, Aberdeenshire; Norrie’s Law, Fife; and the deposition of massive silver chains from Lanarkshire to Inverness (Blackwell et al 2017).
Carry out new scientific analysis of non-diagnostic artefacts – iron knives, whetstones, spindle whorls, quernstones, glass beads – to refine typologies, especially to distinguish Iron Age from early medieval types where possible. Increased investigation of upland domestic settlement sites may be the key to establishing tighter object chronologies.
Establish a coherent archaeological signature for the Viking Age and the formation of Alba, the Gaelic-speaking kingdom based north of the Forth from the 10th century onward. This should include investigations of ecclesiastical sites such as Dunkeld and Muthill, which may in turn tell us about the origins of the medieval town and parish.