Iron Age Shetland
Old Scatness, Shetland
Iron Age settlements
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AbstractThe soils surrounding three Iron Age settlements on South Mainland, Shetland, were sampled and compared for indicators of soil amendment. Two of the sites (Old Scatness and Jarlshof) were on lower-lying, better-drained, sheltered land; the third (Clevigarth) was in an acid, exposed environment at a higher elevation. The hypothesis, based on previous regional assessments, soil thicknesses, and excavations at Old Scatness, was that the lowland sites would have heavily fertilized soils and that the thin upland soil would show little if any amendment. Our findings indicate that the Middle Iron Age soils at Old Scatness had extremely high phosphorus levels, while the soil at Jarlshof had lower levels of enhancement. At Clevigarth, where charcoal from the buried soil was 14C dated to the Neolithic and Bronze Age, there was no evidence of arable activity or soil amendment associated with the Iron Age phases of settlement. These observations indicate that not all sites put the same amount of effort into creating rich arable soils. The three sites had very different agricultural capacities, which suggests the emergence of local trade in agricultural commodities in Iron Age Shetland.
CitationGuttmann, E. B., Simpson, I. A., Nielsen, N. and Dockrill, S. J. (2008). Anthrosols in Iron Age Shetland: Implications for arable and economic activity. Geoarchaeology, Vol. 23, No. 6, pp. 799¿823.
Link to publisher’s versionhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1002/gea.20239
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The integration of chronological and archaeological information to date building construction: an example from Shetland, Scotland, UK.Outram, Zoe; Batt, Catherine M.; Rhodes, E.J.; Dockrill, Stephen J. (Elsevier, 2010)This paper presents new chronological data applied to the problem of providing a date for the construction of a prehistoric building, with a case study from the Old Scatness Broch, Shetland. The innovative methodology employed utilises the combination of radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dates with the archaeological information, which includes the stratigraphic relationships of sampled deposits, context information, and evidence relating to the formation of the deposit. This paper discusses the scientific validity of the dates produced, and the advantages that the methodology employed at this site offers for archaeological interpretation. The combined dating evidence suggests that the broch at Old Scatness is earlier than the conventionally accepted dates for broch construction. More broadly it shows the value of integration of the specialists at the planning stages of the excavation. The application of a Bayesian statistical model to the sequences of dates allowed investigation of the robustness of the dates within the stratigraphic sequences, as well as increasing the resolution of the resulting chronology. In addition, the value of utilising multiple dating techniques on the same deposit was demonstrated, as this allowed different dated events to be directly compared as well as issues relating to the formation of the sampled deposit. This in turn impacted on the chronological significance of the resulting dating evidence, and therefore the confidence that could be placed in the results.
Vikings, peat formation and settlement abandonment: multi-method chronological approach from ShetlandSwindles, G.T.; Outram, Z.; Batt, Catherine M.; Hamilton, W.D.; Church, M.J.; Bond, J.M.; Watson, E.J.; Cook, G.T.; Sim, T.G.; Newton, A.J.; Dugmore, A.J. (2019-04-15)Understanding the chronology of Norse settlement is crucial for deciphering the archaeology of many sites across the North Atlantic region and developing a timeline of human-environment interactions. There is ambiguity in the chronology of settlements in areas such as the Northern Isles of Scotland, arising from the lack of published sites that have been scientifically dated, the presence of plateaus in the radiocarbon calibration curve, and the use of inappropriate samples for dating. This novel study uses four absolute dating techniques (AMS radiocarbon, tephrochronology, spheroidal carbonaceous particles and archaeomagnetism) to date a Norse house (the “Upper House”), Underhoull, Unst, Shetland Isles and to interpret the chronology of settlement and peat which envelops the site. Dates were produced from hearths, activity surfaces within the structure, and peat accumulations adjacent to and above the structure. Stratigraphic evidence was used to assess sequences of dates within a Bayesian framework, constraining the chronology for the site as well as providing modelled estimates for key events in its life, namely the use, modification and abandonment of the settlement. The majority of the absolute dating methods produced consistent and coherent datasets. The overall results show that occupation at the site was not a short, single phase, as suggested initially from the excavated remains, but instead a settlement that continued throughout the Norse period. The occupants of the site built the longhouse in a location adjacent to an active peatland, and continued to live there despite the encroachment of peat onto its margins. We estimate that the Underhoull longhouse was constructed in the period cal. AD 805–1050 (95% probability), and probably in cal. AD 880–1000 (68% probability). Activity within the house ceased in the period cal. AD 1230–1495 (95% probability), and most probably in cal. AD 1260–1380 (68% probability). The Upper House at Underhoull provides important context to the expansion and abandonment of Norse settlement across the wider North Atlantic region.
Sustainability and Resilience in Prehistoric North Atlantic Britain: The Importance of a Mixed Paleoeconomic SystemDockrill, Stephen J.; Bond, Julie M. (2009)he two archipelagos of Orkney and Shetland, which form the Northern Isles of Britain, are an active focus of archaeological research. The rich Neolithic heritage of Orkney has been acknowledged by the granting of World Heritage status. Although set in both a biogeographically peripheral position and within what may be considered to be marginal landscapes, these North Atlantic islands have a large number of settlement sites with long occupational sequences, often stretching from the Neolithic to the Late Iron Age or into the Norse period. The mixed paleoeconomic strategy presented by three of these settlements—Tofts Ness, Sanday, Orkney (excavated 1985–1988); the Iron Age sequences at Old Scatness, Shetland (excavated 1995–2006); and Late Neolithic and Bronze Age cultivated middens from Jarlshof, Shetland (investigated in 2004)—provide the core of the evidence discussed within this paper (the radiocarbon chronologies for the key sequences from these three sites are provided as Appendix 1). The role of the prehistoric paleoeconomy is argued to be of central importance in the longevity of these settlements. In particular, barley production is evidenced on all three sites by the plant macrofossils and by the human investment in the creation and management of manured soils, providing an infield area around the settlement. This paper focuses on the identification of these anthropogenic soils in the archaeological record. The investment in and management of these arable soils provides clear evidence for resource creation on all three sites. It is argued that these soils were a crucial resource that was necessary to support intensive barley cultivation. The intensive management implied by the presence of these soils is seen as a catalyst for sedentary living and sustainability within a marginal landscape. The evidence also demonstrates the continuity of agricultural practice from the Neolithic to the Iron Age together with the social dynamics that such a practice generates. This paper is in two parts: the first section examines in detail the evidence for the presence of anthropogenic soils and the mixed economic strategies for the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age presented by the evidence from Tofts Ness and Jarlshof. The evidence for the continuity of this intensive strategy of soil management is seen from the later evidence of the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age at Tofts Ness and the Middle Iron Age evidence at Old Scatness. The second part of the paper examines the importance of these soils as an inherited resource within the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age paleoeconomic system. Two models are presented. The first examines the cyclic importance of human creation and maintenance of small arable plots to high barley production yields and therefore to site viability, and the effect this has within a mixed resource system in providing settlement viability through time. The second explores the theoretical land and seascape that would provide this mixed resource base.