Sunday, May 17, 2020
back in 2011 about excavations taking place in Rhynie, which identified a settlement surrounded by a wooden palisade, along with glass and pottery imported from the Mediterranean. Oddly, the time periods for the two sites overlap, with the lower town dating to between 500 and 650 AD. It may have been destroyed by fire, maybe more than once.
This week's news is the release of a study done on the hilltop by mapping with laser-equipped drones. Notice on that top photograph that the central fort is surrounded by an outer wall. Within that outer wall archaeologists working on foot had identified about 200 hut sites, but the laser mapping reveals 600 more. A settlement with 800 houses ought to have been pretty big, and the investigators are throwing around numbers like 4,000 people. I feel compelled to point out that this assumes all the huts were occupied at the same time, which is not at all certain. But anyway it is strong evidence that this was a major settlement.
And that tells you something about Scotland in AD 500, because the top of that hill would have been a miserable place to live: howling winds, no water, no soil where you could plant even a single cabbage. You would, if you could, live in the valley, where everybody lives today. And it seems that these Pictish folk did try to live in the valley, but got attacked and burned out. So they kept going back to that inhospitable hilltop, where life might be grim but at least they were safe from being axed in their sleep.