Building crannogs in the 9th–12th centuries AD in northern Scotland: an old tradition in a new landscape

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The 9th–12th centuries AD are poorly understood archaeologically and historically in Scotland with few secure examples of high status secular or ecclesiastic settlement. This paper presents a new group of radiocarbon dates from crannogs, artificial islands known throughout Scotland, which were previously understood to fall out of use in the 9th–12th centuries AD. These dates point to a likelihood that further crannogs date to this period, and have identified previously unknown power centres of secular potentates and ecclessiastic elites. This has significant implications for understanding how power and authority were exercised at this time of political and settlement landscape reorganisation, in particular how identity was expressed through architectural choice. Using archaeological parallels and the meagre documentary accounts of the use of island dwellings, we suggest that crannogs were often seasonally occupied as lordly residences with a range of functions, including as hunting lodges. Given the exceptional preservation of crannogs, this new group of sites with 9th–12th century AD phases of construction represent the best opportunities to explore the climate and economy of the period, and to shed light on a period conspicuous for a lack of observable settlement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of RURALIA XIII Stirling, Scotland, September 2019
Place of PublicationLeiden
PublisherSidestone Press
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2021


  • Crannogs
  • medieval Scotland
  • medieval lordship
  • 9th-12th centuries AD
  • Radiocarbon

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