3.1 Introduction

The appearance, probably shortly after 4000 BC, of a new lifestyle that was more sedentary than that of Mesolithic hunter-fisher-foragers marks the beginning of the Neolithic period in Scotland. This lifestyle was based on the use of domesticated plants and animals and featured fresh technology (pottery) as well as notably different practices, traditions and beliefs. DNA evidence has shown that this farming lifestyle was introduced by immigrants from Continental Europe (Brace et al 2019). As far as Perth and Kinross is concerned, the particular ‘strand’ of Neolithisation represented in this part of Scotland is the ‘Carinated Bowl Neolithic’, whose proximate Continental origin is the Nord-Pas de Calais region of northern France (Sheridan 2010a). The end of the Neolithic period is conventionally defined as the point at which Beaker pottery and associated Continental novelties appeared, during the 25th century BC (ScARF Neolithic section 2012); this too was associated with the arrival of incomers from the Continent. For the purposes of this framework, the Neolithic period is divided into the Early Neolithic, between about 4000 BC and around 3500 BC; the Middle Neolithic, between around 3500 BC and about 3000 BC, and the Late Neolithic, between around 3000 BC and 2500 to 2450 BC.

Our understanding of the Neolithic period in Perth and Kinross is perhaps the broadest (if not the deepest) of any local authority area in Scotland – including Orkney – with a wide range of aspects of Neolithic lifeways and material culture identified through a long tradition of sustained campaigns of research excavation and, from the 1970s onwards, intense aerial reconnaissance and detailed cropmark interpretation. This work has since been supplemented by a broad range of important discoveries made during developer-funded archaeological work. There is also a strong tradition of ‘amateur’ archaeology in Perth and Kinross, involving excavation campaigns, arable fieldwalking and the identification of rock art. This chapter provides a short regional overview for the Neolithic in Perth and Kinross as we currently understand it and includes a brief history of the archaeological research undertaken in the region as well as a more detailed assessment of the current resource. The research agenda provides recommendations for further work in the form of research priorities and questions.