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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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, Julie M.; Watson, E.J.; Cook, G.T.; Sim, T.G.; Newton, A.J.; et al. (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.
Excavations at Old Scatness, Shetland, Volume 2: The Broch and Iron Age VillageDockrill, Stephen J.; Bond, Julie M.; Turner, V.E.; Brown, L.D.; Bashford, D.J.; Cussans, Julia E.; Nicholson, R.A. (2015)Excavations at Old Scatness Volume 2: The Broch and Iron Age Village, is the second title in the series from the extensive excavation project carried out at Old Scatness, following on from the publication of the first volume in 2010. Perhaps the most complex archaeological excavation ever to have been carried out in Scotland, the Scatness project used cutting edge scientific techniques. The second volume examines the earliest phases of the archaeological remains. These start with the Neolithic remains but the focus of the volume is on the exceptionally well preserved Iron Age Broch and Village, dating between 400BC – AD400. - Publisher.
The architecture of food: Consumption and society in the Iron Age of Atlantic Scotland, with special reference to the site of Old Scatness, Shetland.Dockrill, Stephen J.; Bond, Julie M.; Summers, John R. (University of BradfordDivision of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences, 2013-11-22)Food is the foundation upon which societies are built. It is a means of survival, a source of wealth and prosperity and can be used as a means of social display. In Iron Age Atlantic Scotland, a wide range of food resources were open to exploitation. Among these, barley is likely to have been an important backbone to the system. Far from being at the mercy of the elements, the Iron Age population of Atlantic Scotland was able to extract surpluses of food from the landscape which could be manipulated for social, political and economic gain. One means through which this could be achieved is feasting, a practice considered significant elsewhere in the Iron Age. With such ideas at its core, this thesis examines the main arenas for consumption events in Iron Age Atlantic Scotland (dwellings) in detail, considering also the underpinnings of the system in terms of food production and accumulation, in particular the barley crop. The distribution of food processing and preparation between a dwelling and its associated ancillary buildings at Old Scatness provides insights into the organisation of life on the settlement.