Interpreting Iron Age settlement landscapes of Wigtownshire
This thesis explores the process of archaeological interpretation by considering how we can interpret the Iron Age settlement in Wigtownshire, SW Scotland. Traditional images of Iron Age warfaring hierarchical societies have persisted through the use of well-established classifications, such as ‘fort’ or ‘roundhouse’ and by the uncritical acceptance of the definition and identification of ‘settlement’ in the archaeological record. Alternative interpretations of Iron Age settlement landscapes are possible by considering a variety of other observations, which traditional classifications ignore, such as the landscape context of specific monuments. This thesis presents a critical review of these alternative interpretations and other more traditional classifications used to define Iron Age settlement and illustrates how multiple narratives of the past can co-exist. This thesis emphasises the essential part classification plays in archaeological interpretation. Interpretation is a complex and ongoing process and it is important to be aware of the assumptions that we make and how these may affect further interpretations of the archaeological evidence. Common standardised classifications stress the importance of certain morphological characteristics over other observations and the interpretations of the archaeological evidence are therefore restricted. Traditional approaches neglect the importance of context, which is integral to the interpretation of the archaeology on many levels. Understudied, but archaeologically rich, Wigtownshire is an ideal case-study. Rather than limiting the discussion of archaeological features by only comparing them through traditional ‘typologies’, here experiential observations of the evidence – within their landscape context – offer an alternative approach by which the iron Age in Wigtownshire can be considered. A flexible process of classification is advocated – dependent upon the research questions that are addressed in particular studies. My approach to the re-evaluation of the Iron Age settlement in Wigtownshire is also influenced by a critique of the definition of the term ‘settlement’ in archaeology. The identification of ‘domestic’ practices in contrast to ‘ritualised’ ones in the Iron Age evidence is questioned and from a variety of perspectives the complex processes of settlement in the Iron Age are explored.