Iron Age Scotland

Fragment of glass armlet from Leckie brochThe Archaeological collection in the Hunterian Museum contains a substantial and important assemblage of pottery and other artefacts from Iron Age Scotland (c. 700 BC–AD 500). Although there is evidence for regional diversity in settlement patterns, many Iron Age people lived in round houses constructed of timber or stone, some with outer defences. Brochs are iconic and impressive Iron Age strongholds that are exclusive to Scotland. They are large circular dry-stone towers containing single entrance doorways and upper floors reached via a staircase built within the thick walls.

The Hunterian has material from several brochs in north and west Scotland. These include, for example, Crosskirk in Caithness, Dun Ardtreck in Skye and Dun Mor Vaul on the island of Tiree.  With support from the University of Glasgow the latter underwent excavation in the 1960’s which confirmed its occupation from c. AD 60. A rich artefactual assemblage was recovered, including finger-rings, beads, tools and bone gaming die. A large amount of locally-made pottery was recovered, much of which is decorated in a range of styles and techniques, including the use of thumbs and fingernails to make impressed patterns.  This important assemblage remains integral to the Hunterian Museum’s teaching collections.

A large array of locally-manufactured goods was also found at Leckie broch, Stirlingshire. Iron sheep shears confirm the production of wool for textile manufacture, spindle whorls and loom weights were used for weaving, and ochre (yellow) and haematite (red) pigments produced dyes. Made in Britain, the jewellery includes enamelled pieces, glass beads and bracelets popular with both Iron Age peoples and Romans. These valuable personal adornments might have highlighted the status, power and wealth of the owner.  Board games arrived in Scotland with the Romans and Scottish sandstone playing counters and many Roman objects were recovered from Leckie. [Dr Louisa Campbell]