7. The Iron Age

Roddy Regan1

1 Kilmartin Museum, Kilmartin, Lochgilphead, Argyll, PA31 8RQ

With contributions, images, feedback, critical comment and participation at workshops from: Simon Gilmour, Dennis Harding, Fraser Hunter and Emma O’Riordan

Brief Summary

The introduction of a new metal, in the form of iron, seems to have co-incided with a deterioration in the climate around 600 -700 BC. Ritual sites and places of burial are no longer the physical focus of community activity and living sites become the most prominent evidence for this period. Some, known as Duns and Forts, appear on hill tops in prominent places in the landscape, others, such as crannogs, were constructed on artificial or natural islands in inland lochs. Stone towers known as Brochs are also found, but they are less common in Argyll than elsewhere in Scotland and alongside duns have been reclassified or known archaeologically as Atlantic roundhouses. Although there are some notable exceptions, relatively few sites in Argyll have been excavated, meaning that we don’t have a very good understanding of the Iron Age in Argyll. From what little evidence there is, we can understand social organisation to be hierarchical, with the size and prominence of dwelling perhaps marking the status of the people living there. A carved wooden figure in the form of a female human found at Ballachulish, which has been dated to the early Iron Age, gives us a tantalising glimpse into what was undoubtedly a complex system of beliefs.