Dark-Age and Viking-Age pottery in the Hebrides, with special reference to the Udal, North Uist
This thesis is an examination of the evidence for Dark-age and Viking-age pottery in the Hebrides. A brief discussion of current knowledge of Hebridean ceramics shows how unusually ceramic-rich this area is in comparison with the rest of Scotland and much of the British Isles. But the Dark Age and Viking Age in the Hebrides and the pottery of those periods are very poorly known. The excavation of one major settlement site, the TJdal on North Uist, by I.A. Crawford, has allowed examination of stratified pottery groups of the period from c. 400 AD. to c. 1100 A.D. The stratigraphy, structures and chronology of this site are described briefly. The problems and methods involved in analysing a large handmade pottery assemblage are discussed in some detail. The stratified pottery from the Udal is described and the characteristic features of both Dark-age and Viking-age pottery assemblages are defined. Pottery from other sites in the Hebrides is then discussed and a series of sites with similar Dark-age pottery is listed. No close parallels have been found for this pottery outside the area. The Hebridean sites with Viking-age pottery are then described and pottery from other areas is examined in order to define the geographic range of this style. Close similarities can be seen with Souterrain Ware assemblages in northern Ireland and possibly with assemblages in the Faroes. This evidence suggests that the Dark-age style developed from the local Iron-age ceramics. The Viking-age style may indicate influence from Ireland and the interaction of Norse and native peoples in Scotland or Ireland. Further research, systematic fieldwork and excavation are now required to examine these hypotheses.