Iron in Iron Age Scotland: a long-term case study of production and use c.800 BC to AD 800
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Cruickshanks, Gemma Louise
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This thesis examines the evidence for iron production and use during the Scottish Iron Age, circa 800 BC to AD 800, and is the first attempt at synthesising this evidence for Scotland. The broad aim is to gain a better understanding of the development, organisation and scale of iron production throughout this period. Four regional case studies focussing on Orkney, Skye, the Lothians and the Moray Firth provide the opportunity to examine different aspects of this aim through analysing excavated ironworking debris, iron artefacts and their context. Proxy evidence is also examined, namely whetstones and toolmarks on bone/ antler assemblages, in order to fill in some of the gaps in the iron artefact record due to poor preservation or ancient recycling. Some 500kg of ironworking debris, over 1500 iron artefacts, around 200 whetstones and over 2000 worked bone/ antler artefacts from the four regions were examined. The regional case studies are followed by a Scotland-wide discussion will also place the Scottish evidence within its wider context. The research shows rare, sporadic early evidence for iron production and use from around 800BC in Scotland, with production sites and iron artefact assemblages noticeably increasing from around 400BC. The Moray Firth area provides evidence of several intensive ironworking sites, while the Lothians have produced scant evidence, demonstrating regional variation in iron production across Scotland. The long settlement sequences of Orkney allow chronological variations to be examined, revealing changes in iron production organisation from the Middle to Late Iron Ages. Some of the earliest iron artefacts in Scotland, from a ritual cave site on Skye, provide the opportunity to examine structured deposition of iron, with similar depositional patterns identified across Scotland. The use of proxy evidence fleshes out the picture, revealing common use of tools such as iron saws, which rarely survive archaeologically.