From tribes to kingdoms? Society and change in South-West Scotland 0 – 600 AD
The prehistory and early history of Scotland have been the subject of academic interest since the antiquarian period, but most of this interest has been focused on the Eastern, Northern and Atlantic regions of Scotland. The South-West has not been the subject of any recent regional research efforts, despite the presence of contrasting sites such as Burnswark and Castle O’er, or extraordinary sites such as the Mote of Mark or Whithorn. This thesis aims to fill this gap by examining the available evidence from the Roman Iron Age and Early Historic periods for the region stretching, approximately, from Eastern Dumfriesshire to Northern Ayrshire. The evidence gathered is primarily archaeological, with a strong emphasis on landscape patterns and imported items. Because of the size of the region, the landscape was sampled using a 25% systematic grid pattern, with the sample unit coinciding with a single Ordnance Survey grid. Key excavated sites which did not fall into the pattern were also included, so as to analyse them within their landscape and situate them within regional patterns. In contrast, because of the limited amount of known items, imported objects from the entire study area have been considered. The thesis also has a secondary historical component, comprised of contemporary texts which describe either South-West Scotland specifically or Brythonic-speaking communities. The texts, analysed in their original language, have been used to clarify, where possible, patterns emerged in the archaeological analysis. This holistic approach allows a nuanced discussion on the themes of interaction, with the Roman world first and Europe later; social organisation; identity; and social change. The discussion points to the existence of definite regional differences in social organisation and interaction with the Roman world from the early Roman Iron Age, differences which are exacerbated in the following centuries through the economic and socio-cultural choices made by the native communities in their attempt to flourish in a rapidly changing world.