6.6.1 Economic Networks

The most tangible evidence for trade and economic networks in early medieval Scotland is through the exotic imported goods found at high-status sites. In Perth and Kinross, these were once known only from Dundurn fort (Alcock et al 1989); however, the recent assemblage of over 300 finds from the King’s Seat, Dunkeld (Strachan and MacIver forthcoming) has added significantly to this. At Dundurn, imports included Continental glass vessels and a single sherd of E-ware ceramic, imported from Gaul (Campbell 2007). A sherd of deep red glass and a sherd of unidentified ceramic are both imports of 8th–9th-century date with no comparisons from Scotland, though a Rhenish origin has been proposed for the latter (Campbell 2007, 63, 78). These finds suggest exploitation of long-distance trade and possible gift-exchange networks utilising high-status objects (Lane and Campbell 2001; Campbell 1991, 237–8). When only the material from Dundurn was known, it was seen as an outlier to trade which came up the west coast of Britain and then inland from Dál Riata and Strathclyde. However, these latest discoveries push the find spots further east and suggest that it is time to look again at the question of trade transported from the east coast.

Sherds of E-ware from King’s Seat ©️ Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust

Significantly, evidence of metalworking at these sites, in the form of crucible fragments and both stone and clay moulds, suggest that they were also specialist centres of production. They presumably supplied items locally and traded with a network of similar sites further afield. Further detail of the types of production carried out are presented below.

Small crucible from King’s Seat, suggesting silver working at the site ©️ Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust
Clay mould for a brooch or ring from King’s Seat ©️ Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust

The region’s only early medieval coin hoard, from Dull, is one of only a few hoards of 11th-century coins in Scotland (Bateson 1993). It is a single rouleau of Hiberno-Norse silver pennies, minted in Dublin and deposited around 1025. Recovered by metal-detecting to the south of the village in 1989, the minimum of 16 coins were heavily fragmented and plough-damaged. It is only one of three hoards from Scotland that contains Hiberno-Norse coins; it provides evidence for continued strong links between Ireland and Highland Perthshire at the end of the early medieval period. The deposition of the coins seemingly fresh from the mint means we cannot assume that they were ever ‘in circulation’ and instead were valued as bullion.

At the end of the period, a market settlement began to take shape on the banks of the Tay, as evidenced by Shelly ware ceramics imported from London. Radiocarbon dating of residues from these wares confirmed their 10/11th-century use (Hall et al 2006). This provides some much-needed context for antiquarian finds of a 10th-century cross-slab, a possibly Viking Age sword from the Watergate (MPK3362), now in Perth Museum, and a glass linen smoother of Viking Age or later date now in NMS (X.IL 364; Batey 2002). The linen smoother should be seen alongside the four other examples excavated from Perth, and which extend their use into the 13th century (Hunter 2011, 117–8). The clutch of early material and dates associated with Perth is important evidence for the origins of urban centres that supported long-distance trade in Scotland before the 12th century when the first royal burgh charters were issued by David I.

Linen smoother found in Perth ©️ NMS