Cowboys and indians? A biocultural study of violence and conflict in south-east Scotland c. AD 400 to c. AD 800
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date04/12/2022
This thesis considers the skeletal evidence for violence in south-east Scotland during the early medieval period and includes analysis of human remains not previously examined alongside biomolecular analyses of selected skeletons. South-east Scotland experienced several dramatic events in this period, including the end of Roman rule, the Anglian invasion and the commencement of Viking attacks. The traditional view held by some archaeologists in the relatively recent past was that the anglicisation of post-Roman Britain was akin to Hollywood cowboys and Indians and that the Anglo-Saxon conquest was a form of ethnic cleansing. The primary aim of this research iswas to utilise bioarchaeological data alongside other strands of evidence, such as new radiocarbon dates, isotope and DNA analysis alongside XRF and SEM analysis of injuries, to explore if the period was conflict-ridden or not. Other avenues of research incorporated into this thesis include burial practice, the evidence for weaponry and the iconography of carved stones. Human remains provide the most direct evidence of violence in the past yet regional studies remain relatively uncommon, particularly in Scotland. This is the first major synthesis of human remains in south-east Scotland and includes the first bioarchaeological analysis of several important assemblages from the region, i.e. 19-century discoveries from Lundin Links in Fife, the assemblage from Parkburn Quarry, Lasswade in Midlothian and the recently rediscovered mass burial from the Roman fort at Cramond in Midlothian. Osteological analysis of more than 300 skeletons, many of which were excavated in the 19th and first half of the 20th century, has demonstrated notable concentrations of skeletal evidence for violence a general absence of evidence for violence except for notable concentrations in and around the Firth of Forth, in addition to isolated examples from elsewhere in the study area. Significant advances in the bioarchaeology of trauma in recent years have facilitated the identification of important cases of peri-mortem trauma previously unrecorded. In addition, isotope analysis has provided important data on origins and mobility while DNA analysis has proved useful in confirming the sex of poorly preserved adult skeletons as well as providing data on likely origins and familial relationships. This has important implications for our understanding of the relationships between Angles, Britons and Picts, the nature of conflict in the area and for political and social interaction both within and on the fringes of the study area. Conclusions have been reached on the nature, function and impact of violence more generally. It seems likely that the threat of violence within the region acted as a sufficient deterrent most of the time and that the main focus of aggressive action was on the Pictish frontier.