Antiquarians in Scotland were among the earliest to systematically investigate freshwater archaeological remains, with many of the crannogs exposed by drainage and land reclamation during the late 19th century observed during inspection by Robert Munro. Inspired by the results of investigation of the Swiss lake dwellings, Munro published his observations of Scottish crannogs, producing a series of papers and culminating in the seminal work Ancient Scottish Lake Dwellings in 1882, which remains one of the starting points for modern Scottish crannog studies. Little further work was carried out after this time, however, with the exception of a few notable excavations (e.g. Montieth and Robb 1936; Ritchie 1942; Piggott 1953), and only when Morrison attempted to contextualise crannogs within their landscape context through a combination of review of the existing evidence and new survey (Morrison 1985) was interest in the freshwater resource reignited. Morrison was the first to correlate the evidence for freshwater settlement with its terrestrial counterpart, and to some extent set the paradigm that established crannogs as an integral part of the settlement record of both prehistoric and historic centuries.
It was not until the early 1990s, however, when a campaign of condition survey and monitoring of the crannog resource in SW Scotland provided samples for a range of radiocarbon dates that allowed crannogs to be placed, for the most part, within a broad ‘later prehistoric’ period, i.e. c.800 BC to AD 500 (Crone 1993; Barber and Crone 1993). This was to change the focus of lake settlement studies in Scotland, challenging the assumption that ‘crannogs’ should be defined in terms of the well known royal Early Historic sites in Ireland (e.g. Lagore & Ballinderry, Hencken 1942, 1950). In 1998 Henderson argued that the majority of crannogs are likely to be Iron Age constructions, and that they should properly be considered within the better-established frameworks of terrestrial Iron Age settlement and material culture (Henderson 1998). This approach to Scottish lake settlement within the Iron Age settlement record has formed the basis of the majority of work since the late 1990s, with several recent treatments taking a landscape approach (e.g. Hale 2004; Cavers 2010).
The most significant modern excavations, however, illustrate the chronological diversity of the resource, with Dixon’s excavations at Oakbank in Loch Tay (datable to the early Iron Age) and Crone’s at Buiston (most significant phase datable to the 6th to 10th centuries AD). The publication of Buiston set the standard for an integrated approach to crannog excavation, with full analysis of wood technology, dendrochronology and multi-proxy sources of economic and environmental information fully employed (Crone 2000). Oakbank crannog remains unpublished aside from summary reports (e.g. Dixon 2004).
Numerous survey programmes have greatly extended our knowledge of the range of the crannog resource in Scotland (e.g. Dixon and Topping 1986; Henderson 1998; Holley 2000; Cavers 2010). Radiocarbon dates are in fact numerous, largely due to the ease with which they can be obtained, particularly during underwater surveys (see for example Henderson 1998a; Cavers 2010; Dixon 2006), but the wide variation in these has prompted concerns over their interpretation, given our developing grasp of the complexity of site construction, reuse and taphonomy (see below).
Studies of the freshwater archaeological resource outside of crannogs, however, have been notably few. Mowat’s comprehensive treatment of the logboats of Scotland is one exception (Mowat 1996) and Hunter and Bradley have discussed the evidence for the votive offering of hoards (e.g. Hunter 1994, 1997; Bradley 1998) but, aside from industrial sites from relatively recent periods, even survey and identification of freshwater archaeological sites other than crannogs are almost completely lacking.