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Timeline of prehistoric Scotland

The ruins of a stone building set on a grassy knoll with blue skies above. The building is circular  in outline and all that remains of the structure are the double-skinned walls that rise to two stories in places.
The ruins of Dun Carloway Iron Age broch

This timeline of prehistoric Scotland is a chronologically ordered list of important archaeological sites in Scotland and of major events affecting Scotland's human inhabitants and culture during the prehistoric period. The period of prehistory prior to occupation by the genus Homo is part of the geology of Scotland. Prehistory in Scotland ends with the arrival of the Romans in southern Scotland in the 1st century AD and the beginning of written records.[1] The archaeological sites and events listed are the earliest examples or among the most notable of their type.

No traces have yet been found of either a Neanderthal presence or of Homo sapiens during the Pleistocene interglacials, the first indications of humans in Scotland occurring only after the ice retreated in the 11th millennium BC. Since that time the landscape of Scotland has been altered dramatically by both human and natural forces.[2] Initially, sea levels were lower than at present due to the large volume of ice that remained. This meant that the Orkney archipelago and many of the Inner Hebridean islands were attached to the mainland, as was the present-day island of Great Britain to Continental Europe. Much of the present-day North Sea was also dry land until after 4000 BC. Dogger Bank, for example was part of a large peninsula connected to the European continent. This would have made travel to western and northern Scotland relatively easy for early human settlers. The subsequent isostatic rise of land makes estimating post-glacial coastlines a complex task and there are numerous raised beaches around Scotland's coastline.[3][4]

Many of the sites are located in the

  • Shetlopedia: Jarlshof
  • Scottish Crannog Centre, Perthshire, Scotland

External links

  1. ^ Moffat (2005) Chapter 7: Caledonia. pp. 225–53. Petilius Cerilais first led the legions into Scotland between AD 71 and 74. Large parts of Scotland were never held by Rome and Moffat states: "The Romans left us nothing of any enduring cultural value. Their presence was brief, intermittent and not influential."
  2. ^ Edwards, Kevin J and Ralston, Ian B.M. "Environment and People in Prehistoric and Early Historical Times: Preliminary Considerations" in Edwards & Ralston (2003) p. 1.
  3. ^ Murray (1973) p. 69.
  4. ^ Moffat (2005) pp. 46–50.
  5. ^ Peat forms when plant material is inhibited from decaying fully by acidic and anaerobic conditions, often in waterlogged conditions. Much of Scotland's soil cover is either peat, or acidic or both. This results in a lack of finds of bone, jewellery and other household items. See for example Wickham-Jones (2007) p. 25, Moffat (2005) pp. 81, 152 and "What is peat?" International Peat Society. Retrieved 27 Apr 2008.
  6. ^ Wickham-Jones (2007) p. 25.
  7. ^ Moffat (2005) pp. 96–97.
  8. ^ Moffat (2005) p. 147.
  9. ^ McKirdy et al (2007) pp. 163, 179
  10. ^ Gillen (2003) p. 174. Small areas of the north east may have remained ice-free, although there is no suggestion they were populated. See Merritt, J.W. et al. (2003) Cainozoic geology and landscape evolution of north east Scotland. British Geological Survey. Edinburgh. ISBN 0852724632
  11. ^ Haworth, Jenny (10 April 2009) "Scotland's most ancient home found – at 14,000 years old" The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 24 Jun 2009.
  12. ^ "Earliest site in Scotland discovered". Biggar Archaeology Group. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  13. ^ Kennedy, Maev (9 October 2015) "Swine team: pigs help uncover ice age tools on Scottish island" The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 Oct 2015.
  14. ^ "Ice Age tools found on Islay thanks to herd of pigs". (9 October 2015) BBC News Retrieved 11 Oct 2015.
  15. ^ Finlayson, Bill and Edwards, Kevin J. "The Mesolithic" in Edwards & Ralston (2003) pp. 122–23.
  16. ^ "Iron Age village discovered during bypass building project". (14 May 2014) The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  17. ^ Moffat (2005) p. 42. The author interprets the find as a indicating the presence of a summer hunting party rather than permanent settlement. This part of Islay may have remained ice free at a time when almost all of Scotland was still in the ice age's grip.
  18. ^ a b Murray (1973) p. 67.
  19. ^ That is, no evidence other than the Islay arrowhead possibility dated to 10,800 BC, assumed to relate to the Allerød. The dates are subject to significant margins of error.
  20. ^ "Cramond" RCAHMS. Retrieved 21 Aug 2008.
  21. ^ "Earliest evidence found of settlers in Scotland: hazelnuts and stone tools excavated near Edinburgh date to around 8500 BC" British Archaeology. Retrieved 21 Apr 2008.
  22. ^ Gray, Rebecca (18 Nov 2012) "Bridge works uncover nation's oldest house" The Herald. Retrieved 19 Nov 2012.
  23. ^ "Discovering the Invention of Time?" (15 July 2013) RCAHMS. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  24. ^ Edwards, Kevin J. and Whittington, Graeme "Vegetation Change" in Edwards & Ralston (2003) p. 70.
  25. ^ Occupation at this site is dated to 8590+/-95 uncorrected radiocarbon years BP. Edwards, Kevin J., and Mithen, Steven (Feb., 1995) "The Colonization of the Hebridean Islands of Western Scotland: Evidence from the Palynological and Archaeological Records," World Archaeology. 26. No. 3. p. 348. Retrieved 20 Apr 2008.
  26. ^ Finlayson, Bill and Edwards, Kevin J. "The Mesolithic" in Edwards & Ralston (2003) p. 115.
  27. ^ "Sand" RCAHMS. Retrieved 21 Aug 2008.
  28. ^ a b Hardy, K. and Wickham-Jones Caroline R. (2000) "Inner Sound, Highland, survey and excavation" Discovery Excav. Scot. 1.
  29. ^ a b Moffat (2005) p. 91.
  30. ^ "An Corran" Staffin Community Trust (Urras an Taobh Sear) Retrieved 15 Mar 2008.
  31. ^ Rixson (2001) p. 1.
  32. ^ Moffat (2005) pp. 90–91.
  33. ^ Mercer, John (1972) "Microlithic and Bronze Age camps, 75–26 ft OD, N Carn, Jura". Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
  34. ^
  35. ^ Moffat (2005) pp. 92–93.
  36. ^ a b Moffat (2005) pp. 109–13
  37. ^ a b Ballantyne, Colin K, and Dawson, Alastair G. "Geomorphology and Landscape Change" in Edwards & Ralston (2003) p. 42.
  38. ^ Wickham-Jones (2007) p. 40.
  39. ^ Barclay, Gordon J. "The Neolithic" in Edwards & Ralston (2003) p. 132
  40. ^ "Cleaven Dyke" RCAHMS. Retrieved 21 Aug 2011.
  41. ^ a b Moffat (2005) pp. 119–23
  42. ^ Ross, John and Hartley, David (14 August 2009) " 'Cathedral' as old as Stonehenge unearthed." Edinburgh. The Scotsman. Retrieved 16 Aug 2009.
  43. ^ "Neolithic ‘temple’ revealed at site on Orkney" Glasgow. The Herald. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  44. ^ Fleming (2005) p. 47 quoting Clarke, P.A. (1995) Observations of Social Change in Prehistoric Orkney and Shetland based on a Study of the Types and Context of Coarse Stone Artefacts. M. Litt. thesis. University of Glasgow.
  45. ^ Armit (1998) pp. 33-35.
  46. ^
  47. ^ Wickham-Jones (2007) p. 25 and p. 39.
  48. ^ Clarke, David (2000) Skara Brae. Edinburgh. Historic Scotland.
  49. ^ "Skara Brae Prehistoric Village" Historic Scotland. Retrieved 16 Aug 2009.
  50. ^
  51. ^ "Tomb of the Eagles" Tomb of the Eagles. Retrieved 11 Feb 2008.
  52. ^ Wickham-Jones (2007) p. 28.
  53. ^ Armit (1998) pp. 68-70.
  54. ^ Moffat (2005) pp. 165–67.
  55. ^ A flaked stone with a sharp edge used for cutting. This Neolithic tool is named after Skaill Bay, the location of World Heritage Site Skara Brae in Orkney. See
  56. ^ Fleming (2005) pp. 38, 53, 56.
  57. ^ Urquhart, Frank (21 August 2009) "Face to face with the 5,000-year-old 'first Scot'." Edinburgh. The Scotsman.
  58. ^ Li, Martin (2005) Adventure Guide to Scotland. Hunter Publishing. p. 509.
  59. ^ Murray (1973) p. 122.
  60. ^ "Lewis, Callanish, 'Tursachan' " RCAHMS. Retrieved 21 Apr 2008.
  61. ^ Armit (1998) pp. 54-57, 178-79.
  62. ^ Nicolson, James R. (1972) Shetland. David & Charles. Newton Abbott. pp. 33–35.
  63. ^ Wickham-Jones (2007) pp. 28–29.
  64. ^ Wickham-Jones (2007) pp. 53–54.
  65. ^ Moffat (2005) pp. 154, 158, 161.
  66. ^
  67. ^ Moffat (2005) pp.182-83.
  68. ^ Keay and Keay (1994) p. 148.
  69. ^ Armit, Iain and Ralston, Ian B.M. "The Iron Age" in Edwards & Ralston (2003) p. 169.
  70. ^ a b
  71. ^ Anderson, Joseph (1901) "Notice of a hoard of bronze implements, and ornaments, and buttons of jet found at Migdale, on the estate of Skibo, Sutherland, exhibited to the society by Mr. Andrew Carnegie of Skibo". Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Retrieved 21 Aug 2011.
  72. ^ "Anklets of Bronze" National Museums Scotland. Retrieved 29 April 2008.
  73. ^ Keys, David (14 August 2009) "Ancient royal tomb found in Scotland". London. The Independent. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  74. ^ Armit (1998) pp. 60-61.
  75. ^ Moffat (2005) p. 156.
  76. ^ "Achnabreac cup and ring marks". Forestry Commission. Retrieved 23 Feb 2008.
  77. ^ "Mummification in Bronze Age Britain" BBC History. Retrieved 11 February 2008.
  78. ^ "The Prehistoric Village at Cladh Hallan". University of Sheffield. Retrieved 21 Feb 2008.
  79. ^ "'Royal' Iron Age roundhouse found" (26 June 2007) BBC News. Retrieved 18 Feb 2008.
  80. ^ Moffat (2005) pp. 182, 249.
  81. ^ Cowie, Trevor G., and Shepherd Ian A.G. "The Bronze Age" in Edwards & Ralston (2003) pp. 156-57. Dated to 2810+/-85 BP, the find is associated with the discovery of lengths of wooden track of uncertain date.
  82. ^ Moffat (2005) pp. 170, 177.
  83. ^ Moffat (2005) p. 182.
  84. ^ "Skye, Dun Ringill" RCAHMS. Retrieved 22 Jun 2008.
  85. ^ a b Kirk, William (1983) p. 106.
  86. ^ " Jarlshof & Scatness" Shetland Heritage. Retrieved 2 Aug 2008.
  87. ^ Moffat (2005) p. 189.
  88. ^ Armit, Ian "The Iron Age" in Omand (2006) p. 58
  89. ^ Harding, D. W. 2004 "The Iron Age in Northern Britain: Celts and Romans, Natives and invaders". Oxford. Routledge. p. 121.
  90. ^ Moffat (2005) p. 195.
  91. ^
  92. ^ "Horns of bronze". Museum of Scotland. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  93. ^ Sandars (1968) pp. 260-261
  94. ^ "AD 200 - Valtos: brochs and wheelhouses" Retrieved 1 Aug 2009.
  95. ^ Armit (1998) pp. 115-16.
  96. ^ "Carved stone ball". National Museums of Scotland. Retrieved 22 March 2008.
  97. ^ Finlayson, Bill and Edwards, Kevin J. "The Mesolithic" in Edwards & Ralston (2003) pp. 113–4.
  98. ^ Finlayson, Bill and Edwards, Kevin J. "The Mesolithic" in Edwards & Ralston (2003) p. 113.
  99. ^ Murray, W.H. (1977) The Companion Guide to the West Highlands of Scotland. London. Collins. p. 355.
  100. ^ Ross, Sinclair (1992) The Culbin Sands: Fact and Fiction. University of Aberdeen. p. 88. This extensive dunes complex was forested in the first half of the 20th century.
  101. ^ "Archaeology" Fetlar Interpretive Centre. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  102. ^ "Fetlar, Funziegirt". Canmore. Retrieved 19 Jan 2012.
  103. ^ Barclay, Gordon J. "The Neolithic" in Edwards & Ralston (2003) p. 137.
  104. ^ Kirk, William (1983) p. 110.
  105. ^ Ruined buildings with a main court and two or more smaller cells and a forecourt formed by two curved or horn-shaped walls.
  106. ^ Quine, David (2000) St Kilda. Grantown-on-Spey. Colin Baxter Island Guides. ISBN 1-84107-008-4 pp. 91–92.
  107. ^ Fleming (2005) p. 23.
  108. ^ Burghead Well (1968) Ancient Monuments of Scotland. Crown copyright leaflet.
General references
  • Armit, Ian (1998) Scotland's Hidden History. Stroud. Tempus (in association with Historic Scotland). ISBN 0-7486-6067-4
  • Edwards, Kevin J. & Ralston, Ian B.M. (Eds) (2003) Scotland After the Ice Age: Environment, Archaeology and History, 8000 BC - AD 1000. Edinburgh. Edinburgh University Press.
  • Fleming, Andrew (2005) St. Kilda and the Wider World: Tales of an Iconic Island. Windgather Press. ISBN 1-905119-00-3
  • Gillen, Con (2003) Geology and landscapes of Scotland. Harpenden. Terra Publishing.
  • Keay, J. & Keay, J. (1994) Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland. London. HarperCollins.
  • Kirk, William "Prehistoric Scotland: The Regional Dimension" in Clapperton, Chalmers M. (ed.) (1983) Scotland: A New Study. Newton Abbott. David & Charles.
  • McKirdy, Alan Gordon, John & Crofts, Roger (2007) Land of Mountain and Flood: The Geology and Landforms of Scotland. Edinburgh. Birlinn. ISBN 978-1-84158-357-0
  • Moffat, Alistair (2005) Before Scotland: The Story of Scotland Before History. London. Thames & Hudson.
  • Omand, Donald (ed.) (2006) The Argyll Book. Edinburgh. Birlinn. ISBN 1-84158-480-0
  • Murray, W.H. (1973) The Islands of Western Scotland. London. Eyre Methuen.
  • Rixson, Dennis (2001) The Small Isles: Canna, Rum, Eigg and Muck. Edinburgh. Birlinn.
  • Sandars, Nancy K. (1968) Prehistoric Art in Europe. London. Penguin.
  • Wickham-Jones, Caroline (2007) Orkney: A Historical Guide. Edinburgh. Birlinn.
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References and footnotes

See also

Location Details Type
North Sea A flint scraper, found in a marine core taken from the sea bed between Norway and Shetland. The area would have been above sea level between 16,000 and 8000 BC, but the tool might also have been lost overboard at a later date. (M, O, S)[97]
Assynt Discoveries in the Inchnadamph caves suggest human predation on lynx, brown bear, Arctic fox and reindeer. There is some evidence that the site may go as far back as the late Paleolithic era, although carbon dating analysis provides an estimate of 6000 BC. (M, O, S)[98][99]
Moray Diverse ancient artefacts from various periods were so commonly found in the Culbin Sands between Forres and Nairn that in the late 19th century "searching for arrows" was a well-known local pastime. 29,500 items are held by the National Museum of Scotland but many thousands more have been lost. (M, O, S)[100]
Fetlar Funzie Girt dyke is a wall, probably originally a boundary marker of some kind, that runs north—south across the island. Date unknown, but probably Neolithic. The division of the island by the dyke was so marked that the Norse seemed to treat Fetlar as two distinct islands. (S)[101][102]
Aberdeenshire Petrospheres called "Carved Stone Balls" of uncertain date, also found on Orkney, Skye, Iona and Lewis. The Aberdeenshire finds coincide with unusual "recumbent" stone circles, suggesting a Neolithic provenance. (S)[103][104]
Hirta "Horned structures"[105] in Gleann Mòr including the "Amazon's House". Nothing like them exists anywhere else in Britain or Europe, and their original use is unknown. It is possible they are Pictish and date from 400 to 900 AD, although they may be older. (S)[106][107]
Moray The chambered well at Burghead was discovered in 1809. This underground structure is unique in a Scottish context and is probably of Dark Age origin, although it may be older. (S)[108]

Various sites of importance are as yet undated and difficult to place in the timeline. Others contain items from many different periods whose story has not yet been unraveled or items where the time period and location cannot be easily reconciled. The Hirta and Burghead items may date from the Dark Ages some four centuries or more after the appearance of the Romans and the commencement of the historic era.

A black and white drawing of a complex structure resembling a sphere with several elaborately decorated part-spheres stuck to its surface. The decorations include sworls, circular shapes and wavy lines.
An example of a carved stone ball from Towie in Aberdeenshire, dated from 3200–2500 BC.[96]

The entrances to several small caves sit at the base of a rock cliff. Below the entrances the slope is grass-covered and braided with small paths.
Inchnadamph Caves

Steep stones steps lead down to a dark and narrow entrance cut into the side of a grassy hill. Dark wooden railings have been placed either side of the steps.
Burghead chambered well

Sites of uncertain date

Date (BC) Location Details Type
2250–1950 Sutherland The Migdale Hoard is an early Bronze Age find at Skibo Castle that includes two bronze axes; several pairs of armlets and anklets, a necklace of forty bronze beads, ear pendants and bosses of bronze and jet buttons. (M)[71][72]
2000 West Lothian Further to Neolithic developments at Cairnpapple Hill (see above) finds from later dates include Beaker style pottery from 2000 BC, burial cists and graves from the Iron Age or possibly the Christian era. (P, S)[41]
2000 Forteviot A Bronze Age tomb with burial treasures including the remains of an Early Bronze Age ruler laid out on white quartz pebbles and birch bark, with possessions including a bronze and gold dagger, a wooden bowl and a leather bag. (M, S)[73]
2000 Nairn The Clava cairns of Balnuaran are three substantial circular chamber tombs surrounded by a "kerb" ring of boulders. They are the best examples of a group of 45 such cairns found in Inverness-shire. (S)[74]
2000 Inverness A burial cist at Culduthel provided barbed arrowheads and an archer's wristguard studded with gold rivets. (M, S)[75]
2000 Argyll Rock art found in the Achnabreac forest near Lochgilphead includes some of the largest ring marks in Britain. It is likely that the site is connected with nearby Kilmartin Glen, suggesting a millennium-long use of the latter. (S)[76]
1600–1100 South Uist Cladh Hallan, the only site in the UK where prehistoric mummies have been found. (O, S)[77][78]
1500? – 200 Aberdeenshire Bennachie, a prominent hill with Bronze and Iron Age remains, including a 20-metre (66 ft) diameter roundhouse. (S)[79]
1500 BC – 150 AD East Lothian Traprain Law, a hill fort and burial site that covered up to 16 ha (40 acres) and was a seat of Votadini power. (M, S)[80]
1255 Forth Valley A tripartite wooden disc-wheel found at Blair Drummond Moss are the earliest evidence for wheeled transport in Britain. (O)[81]
1159± Iceland An eruption of the Hekla volcano caused a significant deterioration in growing conditions and may have halved the Bronze Age population. Production of tools declined thereafter but weapons were made in greater numbers, suggesting a period of considerable unrest. (E)[82]
1000 Melrose The fort on the summit of Eildon Hill has 5 km (3.1 mi) of ramparts and could have had an occasional population of 3000 to 6000. (O)[83]
1st millennium BC Skye The remains of Dun Ringill fort are similar in layout to that of both a broch and a complex Atlantic roundhouse. (S)[84]
800 BC onwards Shetland The main settlement of Jarlshof includes a smithy, a cluster of wheelhouses and a later broch. The site was inhabited until Viking times. (P, S)[85][86]
800 Perthshire A hoard of bronze objects found in a peat bog at Corrymuckloch including three axeheads a sword blade and a large ladle. The ladle is unique in a British context. (M)[87]
700–500 Argyll The "Ballachulish Goddess" – a life-sized female figure in oak with quartz pebbles for eyes found under a wicker structure beneath peat at Ballachulish. The high standard of preservation suggests it was deliberately submerged. (O)[88]
600? Ross-shire Dun an Ruigh Ruaidh on the south west shore of Loch Broom is an early example of a complex Atlantic roundhouse from which the later brochs may have developed. (S)[89]
400 Edinburgh A chariot burial found at Newbridge in 2001, the first such find in Scotland. (M)[90]
300 Skye The remains of the bridge of a lyre found at High Pasture Cave. This small burnt and broken piece is the earliest find of a stringed instrument in western Europe. (W)[91]
200 Kirkcudbright The Torrs Pony-cap and Horns, three enigmatic pieces of bronzework, all with sophisticated decoration in Celtic (Insular La Tène) style, from about 200 BC. (M)[92][93]
100? Mousa Broch of Mousa built during the final period of broch building, it stands some 13 m (44 feet) high and is the finest extant example of these structures, which are unique to the north and west of Scotland. Dun Carloway broch on Lewis is also well preserved and dates from a similar period. (S)[85][94][95]
100 Stirling The Stirling hoard, consisting of four gold torcs, a type of necklace, all of which were manufactured between 300 BC and 100 BC. They were evidently buried deliberately at some point in antiquity. (M)[70]
[70] was found by a metal detectorist in September 2009. It has been described as the most significant discovery of Iron Age metalwork in Scotland and is said to be of international significance.Stirling hoard civilisation and their immediate predecessors remains enigmatic. The Pictish although the nature of the resident [69][68][67] culture in Scotland,CelticDuring the 1st millennium BC as the Iron Age emerged from the preceding Bronze Age, it becomes legitimate to talk of a

From the commencement of the Bronze Age to about 2000 BC the archaeological record shows a decline in the number of large new stone buildings constructed. Pollen analyses suggest that at this time woodland increased at the expense of the area under cultivation. In Orkney, burials were now being made in small cists well away from the great megalithic sites and a new Beaker culture began to dominate. Bronze and Iron Age metalworking was slowly introduced to Scotland from Europe over a lengthy period. (By contrast, the Neolithic monumental culture spread south from northern Scotland into England.) As the Bronze Age developed, Scotland's population grew to perhaps 300,000 in the second millennium BC.[65][66] There were evidently significant differences between the lifestyles of Bronze Age peoples inhabiting Scotland. For example, finds at the Traprain Law site (near modern Edinburgh) suggest that the priests there may have overseen ceremonies on a par with their contemporaries on mainland Europe. On the other hand, although the mummifications found at Cladh Hallan in the Western Isles invite comparisons with Egypt, the simple lifestyle of the inhabitants of this settlement contrasts with that of Tutankamun – even if the former's lives may have been preferable to those of the toiling slaves who built Amarna at this time.

Three elaborate gold coloured torcs lie on dark red  surfaces. A fourth torc is in two pieces.
The four torcs in the Stirling hoard

Eildon Hill - a triple peak and hill fort

Bronze and Iron Ages

Date (BC) Location Details Type
3900–3200 Aberdeenshire Balbridie timber hall. This structure is 26 metres long and 13 metres wide (85 ft by 43 ft) and may have had a roof 10 metres (30 ft) high. It was large enough to accommodate up to 50 people. Braeroddach Loch nearby provides the earliest evidence for pastoralism found so far, dated to 3780. (F, O)[36][37]
3700–2800 Papa Westray Knap of Howar Neolithic farmstead, probably the oldest preserved house in northern Europe, in which Unstan pottery pieces were found. The structure was inhabited for 900 years. (P, S)[38]
3600 Meikleour Cleaven Dyke cursus, a structure that is unique in a Scottish context, and Herald Hill long barrow. (S)[39][40]
3500–2500 West Lothian Excavations at Cairnpapple Hill have unearthed pottery bowls and stone axe heads that indicate rituals in the early period of occupation. A major henge was constructed a millennium later. (See also Bronze Age below.) (P, S)[41]
3500–2000 Orkney A site excavated at Ness of Brodgar from 2003 near Loch of Harray has provided evidence of housing, decorated stone slabs, a massive stone wall with foundations 4 metres (13 ft) wide, and a large building 25 metres (82 ft) long and 20 metres (66 ft) wide described as a Neolithic "cathedral". (P, S)[42][43]
3400 Shetland The Scord of Brouster site in Walls includes a cluster of six or seven walled fields and three stone circular houses that contains the earliest hoe-blades found so far in Scotland. (S)[44]
3200–2800 North Uist Eilean Dòmhnuill in Loch Olabhat may be Scotland's earliest crannog. The final phase bears a resemblance to Knap of Howar. (P, S)[45][46]
3200–2950 Orkney The Barnhouse Settlement, another cluster of buildings including one that may have been used for communal gatherings. (S)[47]
3100–2500 Orkney Skara Brae consists of ten clustered houses and is Northern Europe's most complete Neolithic village. (O, S)[48][49]
3150 South Ronaldsay The Tomb of the Eagles where 16,000 human bones were found, as well as 725 bird bones, predominantly white-tailed sea eagle. This chambered tomb was in use for 800 years or more, and is considered by archaeologists to be one of the finest of its kind in the north of Scotland. (B, S)[50][51]
3100 Orkney The Stones of Stenness are four remaining megaliths of a henge, the largest of which is 5 metres (16 ft) high. (S)[52][53]
3000 Argyll Kilmartin Glen contains 350 Neolithic and Bronze Age relics within a 10-kilometre (6.2 mi) radius, including Dunadd hill fort. (S)[54]
3000? Hirta Shards of pottery of the Hebridean Ware style and a quarry for stone tools discovered on the hillside of Mullach Sgar. Stone hoe-blades, grinders and Skaill knives[55] found in the Village Bay bee-hive shaped storage cleitean. Uncertain date between 3500 and 1500 BC. (P, S)[56]
3000–2500 Westray At Links of Noltland a lozenge-shaped figurine was discovered in 2009, which may have been carved between 3000 and 2500 BC and is the earliest representation of a human face ever found in Scotland. Known as the Westray Wife, the face has two dots for eyes, heavy brows and an oblong nose and a pattern of hatches on the body could represent clothing. (S)[57]
2900–2600 Lewis The Callanish Stones are one of the finest stone circles in Scotland. The 13 primary monoliths of between one and five metres in height form a circle about 13 metres in diameter. (S)[58][59][60]
2700 Orkney Maeshowe, a large and unique chambered cairn and passage grave, aligned so that its central chamber is illuminated on the winter solstice. It was looted by Vikings who left one of the largest collection of runic inscriptions in the world. (S)[61]
2500 Shetland Jarlshof is the best known archaeological site in Shetland. The earliest finds are pottery from this era, although the main settlement dates from the Bronze Age (see below). A site nearby has been dated to 3200 BC. (P)[62]
2500 Orkney Ring of Brodgar, a stone circle 104 metres in diameter, originally composed of 60 stones set within a circular ditch up to 3 metres deep and 10 metres wide. It has been estimated that the structure took 80,000 man-hours to construct. (S)[63]
2500? Hoy The Dwarfie Stane tomb, made from a single huge block of red sandstone with a hollowed-out central chamber. This style is quite unlike any other Neolithic Orkney site. (S)[64]
2460 Rùm The earliest evidence of tree clearance and of arable cultivation recovered from a peat core taken near Kinloch. (O)[37]
were erected. Stonehenge stones of sarsen and almost a millennium before the Great Pyramid of Giza, more than 500 years before the building of the Ancient Egyptian culture were constructed contemporaneously with the emergence of the Orcadian Neolithic monuments The great [36] invasions some four millennia later.Saxon and they are quite dissimilar from both anything found earlier and the monumental stone structures found later. No timber buildings of a similar size were re-created until the Forth Valley and in the Kelso discoveries portray a radical departure from the earlier hunter-gatherer societies. During this period complex societies evolve that are capable of creating substantial structures. Development is by no means linear and architectural advances are often followed by periods of stagnation and even reversal. The Balbridie site, for example, is matched by only two others so far discovered in Scotland at NeolithicScotland's
A small, brown conical structure sits on top of wooden piers set into a body of water. Ducks paddle through the water and in the near background there is a tree-lined shore with a white square tower showing amongst the trees. Tree covered hills and grey skies dominate the far background.
Reconstructed crannog on Loch Tay

Various stone-lined depressions have been cut into a sward-covered area near a body of water. Some depressions are small and circular. A larger one in the foreground is semi-circular and contains various arranged piles of stones.
Jarlshof, Shetland, re-discovered in the late nineteenth century

A confused arrangement of individual monoliths of various sizes set in rough ground under cloudy skies.
Callanish Stones - one of the finest stone circles in Scotland

A jumble of stone walls, larger stones set into the ground and surrounding grassy areas. Various human figures wander past in the background.
Skara Brae in Orkney is Europe's most complete Neolithic village.

A small area of gravel is enclosed by a stone wall built into the surrounding grassy fields. Various large stones sit inside this enclosure and a low doorway has been constructed at the far end. Beyond the doorway there is a rocky foreshore and a body of water.
Knap of Howar. The site contains what is probably the oldest preserved house in northern Europe.


Date (BC) Location Details Type
10,800 Islay A flint arrowhead that was found in a field near Bridgend. This may relate to the end of the Allerød, a relatively warm period that lasted from c. 12,000-11,000 BC. This is the only find in Scotland to date from this early part of the Mesolithic. (S)[17][18]
11,000–9640 Scotland-wide The Loch Lomond Stadial cold period. No evidence has been found yet of human activity in Scotland during this time.[19] (E)[18]
8500 Cramond The remains of a temporary camp that has provided more than 3,000 artefacts, including about 300 stone tools and fragments. (O, S)[20][21]
8240 South Queensferry The outline of Scotland's "oldest house" is an oval about 7 metres (23 ft) across discovered in 2012. It was probably occupied during the winter months. (O, F, S)[22]
8000 Aberdeenshire Possibly the world’s oldest calendar, discovered at Warren Field in 2004 from aerial photographs. F)[23]
7700–7500 Rùm Burnt hazelnut shells and microscopic charcoal found at Farm Fields, Kinloch indicate a settlement of some kind. This was considered to be the oldest evidence of occupation in Scotland until the confirmation of the Cramond site in 2001. (O)[24][25][26]
7500 and 5500 Applecross A shell midden and rock-shelter at Sand in Wester Ross. The Inner Sound and its environs surrounding the island of Raasay are the focus of investigations researching Scotland's early Mesolithic settlers. The two dates for Sand suggest an intermediary period of abandonment. (B, S)[27][28]
6700 Colonsay A midden pit containing hundreds of thousands of charred hazelnut shells, all harvested in the same year, on a raised beach at Staosnaig. Nearby, smaller pits were used for roasting. (O)[29]
6500 Skye A rock shelter and midden site at An Corran in Staffin, probably related to Sand. (O, S)[28][30]
6500 Islay Stone artefacts including 250,000 flints at Bolsay. (S)[29]
6500–5500 Rùm A beach site above Loch Scresort with stakeholes suggesting tent-like structures. (F, O)[31]
6000 Jura Three stone hearths and traces of red ochre, which are the earliest dated stone-built structures found so far. (S)[32][33]
6000 Coastal inundations The Storegga Slides created a tsunami that reached 25 metres (82 feet) above normal high tides. Evidence of widespread coastal inundations has been found, especially in the north and east. (E)[34]
5300–4300 Oronsay Five middens containing huge quantities of seashells, with some fish bones, antler and human remains. The middens appear to have been filled according to a seasonal rhythm. (B)[35]
[16] were announced in 2014 including arrowheads, urns and bead necklaces from the Mesolithic. Initial press reports provided no firm dates for these artefacts.Dunragit Substantial finds at the village of [15] societies. No Mesolithic burial sites have been uncovered in Scotland to date.hunter-gathererThe very limited
A view from an elevation above cultivated fields and a mixed wood of conifers and deciduous trees. Various indistinct buildings are visible among these trees. The brown ridge of a hill in the background has conifers growing on its lower slopes.
Kinloch at the head of Loch Scresort, Rùm. This area has provided two early Mesolithic sites.

Sand Bay and the Inner Sound. The rock-shelter at Sand is an important Mesolithic site.

A small sandy beach lies beyond a grassy foreshore. In the distance the outline of a range of brown and grey hills is visible under cloudy skies.
A beach on Oronsay, looking towards Jura. Both islands have produced evidence of Mesolithic human settlement.


Date (BC) Location Details Type
12,000 Biggar Flint artefacts found at Howburn Farm, near Elsrickle in 2005 but not dated until 2009. (S)[11][12]
c. 10,000 Islay Stone implements of the Ahrensburgian culture found at Rubha Port an t-Seilich near Port Askaig by foraging pigs in 2015 near a Mesolithic site. Probably a summer camp used by hunters travelling round the coast in boats. (S)[13][14]
but settlement began much later than in southern Europe due to the adverse climatic conditions further north. So far, a single site has produced the only definite evidence of Upper Paleolithic human habitation in Scotland. Flandrian interglacial Humans began to populate Scotland during the current [10] in France were created, c. 14,000 BC.Lascaux when the cave paintings of glaciated and most of Scotland remained [9]Quaternary glaciationThe whole of Scotland was covered in ice sheets during the coldest periods of the


Citations in the Type box refer to the information in the entire row.

Letter Type Description
(B) Bone Human or animal material including bone, teeth and shells examined using zooarchaeological techniques.
(E) Environmental Natural occurrences including geological and climatic events.
(F) Building foundations Disturbed ground, timber remains or worked stone.
(M) Metal Metals worked by humans into tools, jewellery etc.
(O) Organic material Biofacts - the dead material of once-living organisms.
(P) Pottery Usually shards of broken pot - complete artefacts only rarely.
(S) Stone Stone tools, stone used as a building material, standing stones, or natural stone features.

Key to predominant "Type":



  • Timeline 1
    • Palaeolithic 1.1
    • Mesolithic 1.2
    • Neolithic 1.3
    • Bronze and Iron Ages 1.4
  • Sites of uncertain date 2
  • See also 3
  • References and footnotes 4
  • External links 5

Differentiating the various periods of human history involved is a complex task. The Paleolithic lasted until the retreat of the ice, the Mesolithic until the adoption of farming and the Neolithic until metalworking commenced. These events may have begun at different times in different parts of the country. A number of the sites span very long periods of time and in particular the distinctions between the Neolithic and the later periods are not clear cut.[8]

[7] Local tradition hints at both a fear and veneration of these ancient structures that may have helped to preserve their integrity.[6] predominate.arable land There are also numerous important remains in the Orkney archipelago, where sand and [5]

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