History Files
 

 

Prehistoric Britain

Scotland's Oldest Settlement

BBC News, 14 September 2000

 

 

Archaeologists believe they have found the site of what could be Scotland's oldest farm.

The farm is thought to be 6000 years old - up to 1500 years older than the World Heritage archaeological site at Skara Brae in Orkney. The archaeologists from Stirling University have spent nearly two years working at the site, near Blairgowrie in Perthshire.

The exact location is being kept secret, but it is close to a burial mound known as Cleave Dyke, which dates from a similar period. The team has found evidence of flint tools having been made and a large, roughly circular enclosure, which they believe may have been home to an extended family of about thirty people.

It is thought the remains of several centuries-old farmhouses will be found within a small enclosure, which has been identified using aerial photography. The project is of such importance that Historic Scotland has seconded a principal inspector of ancient monuments to work alongside the university team for eleven months.

The inspector, Gordon Barclay, said: "This is really a very important find. Until now, for the first farmers all we had were religious sites, 'henges' and ceremonial enclosures. Obviously their houses were timber constructions, which are difficult to spot on aerial photographs."

The Blairgowrie farmers grew wheat and barley, and farmed pigs, sheep and cattle. They were also hunters and fishers, using wild resources and collecting hazelnuts and berries to provide variety to their diet.

Mr Barclay said: "These were no grunting savages.

Big families

"They were clearly very sophisticated people, and left an enormous legacy of religious and ceremonial structures, but until now the missing link has been their homes and where they worked. They would have faced wild animals such as bears and wolves. They would have needed to fence in farms for their own protection as well as for their crops and animals. "They would have used simple wooden tools and fixed stones to form the working end of a simple plough.

"The complexity of their religious monuments that they built show that they could mobilise large work forces and that they had time to construct these things.

"We have found several dozen flint artefacts, and we are hopeful that when excavations get underway we might be able to find other tools. They can be very difficult to pick out. The main discovery has been the large, roughly circular enclosure, made up of roughly straight segments. We are hoping this will contain both the farm and the farmers' homes."

  They were clearly very sophisticated people, and left an enormous legacy of religious and ceremonial structures, but until now the missing link has been their homes and where they worked

Gordon Barclay  

He added: "We don't know what their social structure was, but it is feasible that an extended family of up to thirty people would have lived here."

Professor Donald Davidson, who is heading the Stirling University team, said: "It is a very exciting development. Few sites exist in Lowland Scotland because they are not in such remote locations, where remoteness itself tends to favour preservation."

The project, which is being carried out by Historic Scotland and Stirling University's Department of Environmental Science, is being funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board.

  Few sites exist in Lowland Scotland because they are not in such remote locations, where remoteness itself tends to favour preservation

Professor Donald Davidson  
 

 

     
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