Ceramic and cultural change in the Hebrides AD 500-1300

Ceramic and cultural change in the Hebrides AD 500-1300

By Alan Lane

Cardiff Studies in Archaeology, No.29 (2007)

Introduction: The Hebrides have long been considered an important area for consideration of the nature of Celtic–Norse relationships. Historical sources, saga literature, place-names, burials and hoards have all been used to suggest a significant and long-lasting Scandinavian impact which is historically documented well into the medieval period. However the Hebrides have lacked settlement evidence to match the reasonably good data known from Orkney and Shetland.

The pre-Viking period in the Hebrides has likewise been poorly understood, though this has been a problem common to most of Scotland, including the Northern Isles. Recent work within the Hebrides has begun to address these problems both through targeted survey and excavation aimed at locating Viking sites, and excavations with an Iron Age focus which have serendipitously located immediately pre-Viking phases of occupation. Some of this advance in our knowledge is due to the recognition of distinctive ceramics within the northern Hebrides belonging to the Viking and pre-Viking periods.

My doctoral research outlined a ceramic sequence for the period c AD 400-1100 based on the pottery from the Udal, North Uist, excavated by Iain Crawford in the 1960s and 1970s . Unfortunately delays in definitive publication of the site evidence in support of this sequence have limited its impact. The last two decades, however, have seen a whole series of new excavations which have refined and confirmed the suggested sequence, though as yet most of the site evidence is unpublished. This paper is intended to outline the evidence as currently known.

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