Prehistoric Annals and Early Medieval Monasticism: Daniel Wilson, James Young Simpson and their Cave Sites
By Kristjan Ahronson and T.M. Charles-Edwards
The Antiquaries Journal, Vol. 90 (2010)
Abstract: To deepen our understanding of early medieval exile, the present study characterizes ways in which scholars have studied cave use in Britain and Ireland. As key figures in the history of archaeology, Sir Daniel Wilson and Sir James Young Simpson were crucial for establishing Scotland’s cave sites as subjects for study. Triggered by these two, a century and a half of research has related these places to the flowering of Gaelic monasticism. Nonetheless, fundamental similarities between early Christian communities in Britain and Ireland are at odds with this northern distribution, and bring the question of cave use beyond Scotland sharply into focus. Our paper therefore targets two questions: (1) to what extent were cave sites used by early Christian communities elsewhere in the Insular world; and (2) is our perception of cave use as a particularly north British phenomenon skewed by the long history of Scottish interest in the topic?