Writing people into the landscape : approaches to the archaeology of Badenoch and Strathnave
This thesis presents accounts of two Highland Scotland landscapes: Badenoch and Strathnaver. The threads of archaeological evidence - as well as topographic context, historical evidence and other pieces of data - are drawn together and woven into an understanding of the inhabitation of these landscapes at different times in the past. Two chapters are devoted to exploring the archaeological landscapes of each study area. The thesis is founded on certain perceptions of archaeological practice: that it constitutes a dialectical process of engagement with archaeological remains, in which the archaeologist fashions meaning from the raw material of the evidence. This process is a kind of dwelling, in some ways akin to how people make meaning of the landscapes in which they live, through coming to know them, to shape and be shaped by them. Writing about archaeological landscapes should reflect and be a working out of that process. The study areas were chosen for their contrasting and complementary characteristics. Strathnaver, in the far north of Sutherland, borders the coast; Badenoch, in the central Highlands, is landlocked. Both areas have a topographic coherency, formed around river valleys and their watersheds. The remains of prehistoric communities survive to a greater extent in Strathnaver than in Badenoch, while in Badenoch the remains of Medieval or later settlement remains are most prominent. Both study areas contain evidence for the early Medieval organisation of the landscape in the form of chapel sites; the settlements to which they provided pastoral care may have continued in use through the Medieval period. As an important routeway through the Highlands, Badenoch served as the seat of some of the most powerful figures in Medieval Highland Scotland, and the process of feudalisation appears to have strongly influenced the development of its settlement pattern. Strathnaver, lying along a maritime route and forming part of the Norse earldom of Caithness, saw settlement by Norse farmers; that history is reflected in its numerous Norse place names, and many of its townships may have their origins in the Norse period of settlement in the late first millennium A.D. Both Badenoch and Strathnaver were the focus of Improvements in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, resulting in the clearance of townships, although those in Strathnaver were more widespread and brutal. In both areas, these changes left the earlier settlement pattern fossilised as the remains of townships.