The Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) is designed to be the go-to research resource for Scottish archaeology – one which provides an overview of the subject and a set of useful and relevant research questions for everyone to use.


ScARF is managed by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and grant funded by Historic Environment Scotland as a key part of it’s commitment to Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy. ScARF delivers Aim 2 of Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy – to Enhance Understanding, and will continue to grow and evolve as our understanding of the past changes.

The first ScARF national panel reports were published in June 2012. The nine reports (covering seven chronological periods and two overarching themes of Marine & Maritime and Archaeological Science) were the culmination of four years of work by over 350 experts in archaeology and related fields. The result was a multi-authored and multi-disciplinary snapshot of the current state of thought and knowledge as well as a providing a set of research questions for the future. The panel reports can be viewed on the ScARF website and are available to download for free.

The framework makes it possible for anyone wishing to contribute to the research environment of Scotland to effectively plan their work in relation to the framework and ensure that future research is relevant and effectively contributes to our understanding of the past.

Approx. dates covered Panel Report
12,700 BC – 4,100 BC Palaeolithic and Mesolithic
4,100 BC – 2,500 BC Neolithic
2,500 BC – 800 BC Chalcolithic and Bronze Age
800 BC – AD 400 Iron Age
AD 77 – AD 211 Roman
AD 400 – 1500 Medieval
1500 onwards Modern
n\a Science
n\a Marine and Maritime

The current focus of the ScARF project is to develop new regional research frameworks, which in time will cover Scotland. Each regional research framework will enhance and update the original national framework created in 2012 to eventually build a new picture of the current research priorities across Scotland. By investigating each geographical area in finer resolution, they will highlight key regional differences and inform future research priorities for all parts of the sector. The regional research framework for Argyll (RARFA) was published online in 2018 and regional frameworks currently in progress in Perth and Kinross (PKARF); Highlands (HighARF); Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland (SIRFA); and the south east of Scotland (SESARF) will be made available online upon completion.

Delegates visit a variety of archaeological sites during the Scotland's Islands Research Framework for Archaeology symposium in Shetland ScARF

Delegates visit a variety of archaeological sites during the Scotland’s Islands Research Framework for Archaeology (SIRFA) symposium in Shetland in 2019. ©ScARF

ScARF is committed to helping in the creation and dissemination of new thematic research frameworks. We can help the process to create new frameworks and ultimately host frameworks and resources which complement the ScARF.

Following a series of workshops to review existing and on-going research and identify priorities for future research the Future Thinking on Carved Stones in Scotland framework was published online in 2016.  The Scottish Network for Nineteenth-Century European Cultures is the newest addition to the thematic frameworks, highlighting Scotland’s importance as a leader of the world-changing industrialisation in nineteenth century Europe.


ScARF student bursaries are available to help with the costs of attending conferences. ©ScARF

ScARF continues to encourage research into Scottish archaeology and in particular support new and early career researchers to tackle some of the research questions. Students are the future of archaeological research and by building a relationship with ScARF, we can ensure that future research is relevant and effectively contributes to our understanding of the past. ScARF provides bursaries for students and ECR’s as part of our Student Network. 

To broaden participation in our shared heritage and in-line with Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy, ScARF actively encourages everyone to engage in archaeological research. Collaborating with museums and experts, ScARF organises free to attend one-day Skills Workshops designed for any individuals who are involved with or has an interest in museum collections and archaeological research in Scotland.


Participants take part in a prehistoric pottery identification workshop at Inverness Museum. ©ScARF

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