Finds of Neolithic pottery are not especially numerous in Perth and Kinross, although they span the whole of the period, from the Early Neolithic traditional Carinated Bowl pottery found at Claish (Sheridan in Barclay et al 2003) to the Late Neolithic Grooved Ware from, for example, Littleour (MPK6955; Sheridan 1998) and Leadketty (MPK9161; MPK5150). Cowie compiled a useful gazetteer of the Neolithic pottery found in central and eastern Scotland over a quarter of a century ago (Cowie 1992; 1994), listing 12 findspots. Although it should be noted that the ‘plain Grooved Ware’ found at Croftmoraig/Croft Moraig (MPK363) is now known to be of Late Bronze Age date, and a similar date is highly likely for the same kind of pottery from Moncreiffe (MPK3163; Bradley and Sheridan 2005; Bradley and Nimura 2016). Since Cowie’s review there have been several new finds of Neolithic pottery, but the number of findspots is still lower than 25.

Croftmoraig excavation, 2012 ©️ Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust

As far as the Early Neolithic Carinated Bowl tradition is concerned, the assemblage from Claish and the single sherd from a pit from the A9 Dualling Project between Luncarty and Pass of Birnam land parcel 6.2 (MPK2332) belong to its earliest, ‘traditional’ form. The assemblage from Pitnacree (MPK1714) includes one lugged vessel; this suggests that this is an early example of ‘modified Carinated Bowl’ pottery (see Sheridan 2016 for an overview of Scottish Neolithic ceramic traditions). ‘Modified Carinated Bowl’ pottery is also represented in the fairly fine lugged Carinated Bowl with vertical ripple burnish from the Clyde-type chamber at Cultoquhey (MPK859; Henshall 1972, 306). However, it is unlikely to be as late as the human remains from the chamber that have been dated to 3628–3366 cal BC (see ‘Funerary Monuments and Practices’ for details of this date). The assemblage from Barbush Quarry, Dunblane now in Stirling (Cowie 1992; 1994) is further from the ‘traditional’ canon, with thick-walled, coarse vessels including one with a lug. The modified Carinated Bowl pottery found at Hallhole Farm (MPK19100) is similarly divergent from the ‘traditional’ canon, but in a different way, since the illustrated vessel appears to be a deep-bellied, closed bipartite bowl or jar (Fyles 2017, Illus 6; see also MacSween in Fyles 2017, 82–110). One of the contexts containing modified Carinated Bowl pottery at Hallhole Farm (Pit 29) is associated with a radiocarbon date of 3656–3526 cal BC (SUERC-74463, 4820+/-30 BP). This brief outline does not cover all of the examples of Carinated Bowl pottery that have been found in Perth and Kinross.

Composite drawing of pottery sherds which are drawn as they would have been when part of a bowl rim.
Modified carinated bowl from Hallhole (Fyles 2017, 15, Illus 6)

Middle Neolithic pottery is represented by the assemblage from Grandtully (MPK6035; Simpson and Coles 1991) which appears to be an early version of Impressed Ware pottery with incised and impressed decoration. It includes a collared vessel with incised panelled decoration on its collar and rim bevel that relates, albeit distantly, to a tradition of pottery found in Orkney and the Outer Hebrides known as Unstan ware (Sheridan 2016). A further Impressed Ware assemblage was found in pits at Hallhole Farm (MacSween in Fyles 2017, 82–110; Fyles 2017, Illus 6). Although none of the contexts in question yielded a radiocarbon date, a date within the second half of the fourth millennium BC is likely, ‘sandwiched’ between the modified Carinated Bowl and the Grooved Ware that was found in other contexts at the site. It remains to be seen whether the pottery found during the A9 Dualling Project between Luncarty and the Pass of Birnam (MPK2331) is of Impressed Ware or Grooved Ware. At the time of writing the post-excavation‌ ‌work‌ is not sufficiently advanced to clarify the identifications (Paton and Wilson 2019).

Within the region, Late Neolithic Grooved Ware has been found at Littleour (MPK6955), Leadketty (MPK9161; MPK5150), Hallhole Farm (MPK19100), Pittentian (MPK18545) and the aforementioned A9 Dualling site. The Littleour pottery is of particular interest. Here, parts of eight pots were found in a pit within, but post-dating, the Middle Neolithic mortuary enclosure and included burnt-on organic residue which has produced the latest date for Grooved Ware in Scotland when it was initially dated (Sheridan 1998). Re-dating of the pottery as part of Copper’s Tracing the Lines project (Copper et al 2018; 2021) has confirmed that there is a surprisingly wide date range for vessels from this single pit, with the latest dates within the third quarter of the third millennium BC while others appear to date to the first half of the third millennium BC. This assemblage is therefore relevant to addressing questions surrounding the transition from the Late Neolithic to the Chalcolithic and especially with regard to the chronological overlap in the use of Grooved Ware and Beaker pottery. The Hallhole Farm Grooved Ware (MacSween in Fyles 2017, 82–110) is similarly associated with a relatively wide date range. One context (Pit 65) produced a date of 2877–2635 cal BC (SUERC-74469, 4157+/-25 BP) and another (Pit 16), a date of 2575–2469 cal BC (SUERC-74467, 3997+/-29 BP) which is one of the latest dates for Grooved Ware in Scotland (cf Copper et al 2018). Some of the vessels resemble Grooved Ware examples from Littleour, and elements of the assemblage (including those found in Pit 16) are comparable with Longworth’s ‘Durrington Walls style’ Grooved Ware which is known from elsewhere in mainland Scotland (eg at Powmyre Quarry by Glamis, Angus) and in many parts of England.

There has been a degree of investigation into the contents of some Neolithic pottery from Perth and Kinross. Pollen analysis of burnt-on organic residues from four of the Grooved Ware pots from Littleour (Long 1998) detected pollen from hazel, ling, nettle, ribwort plantain, dandelion, meadowsweet and crucifers, all of which are potentially edible plants. Pollen from birch, sedges, buttercup, common vetch, fern, bracken and sphagnum moss were also detected and are likely to reflect the environment around the site, although the sphagnum moss may have been collected for a specific purpose. Lipid analysis of two Early Neolithic sherds from Claish found abundant evidence for saturated animal fat plus possibly some epicuticular wax from a plant (Cramp and Evershed 2010; cf Cramp et al 2014). The animal fat was ruminant dairy fat in one sherd and adipose in another (Lucy Cramp pers. comm.), and while the species of ruminant cannot be determined from the lipids, it is arguably likely to have been cattle. Lipid analysis is a valuable source of information on the animals that were consumed since unburnt bone tends not to survive in the acid soils of Perth and Kinross. Although over the local authority boundary, burnt fragments of pig, cattle and red deer bone excavated from the ‘hall’ at Claish indicate the potential for recovery from similar environmental conditions to Perth and Kinross (Barclay et al 2003). Lipid analysis is also important because it has confirmed that the earliest Neolithic husbandry practices involved the use of dairy cattle, a point that has been established at a number of sites across Britain (Cramp et al 2014).