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ARP 2011 “Imagining Past Landscapes: reconstructing a moment in the Kilmartin Glen c.4400 years ago” by Richard Tipping, University of Stirling

Lecture by Dr Richard Tipping, University of Stirling, on the reconstruction of a 4,400 year old landscape.

“Imagining Past Landscapes: Reconstructing a moment in the Kilmartin Glen c. 2400 cal years ago” a short lecture by Dr Richard Tipping (Stirling University), Dr Andrew Jones (Southampton University), Dr Lucy Verrill (Stirling University) and Aaron Watson (, at the Archaeological Research in Progress (ARP 2011) national day conference on Saturday 28th May 2011 at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

It is often important in archaeological analyses to understand their landscape context. It is frequently difficult for archaeologists and environmental archaeologists to understand fully the nuances in each other’s work. Virtual reconstruction offers a simple but very powerful way of bridging this gap in understanding. In this talk we will present one aspect of the findings of a recent AHRC-funded Project (AH/F018010/1) in dating and contextualising prehistoric rock art in the Kilmartin Glen, Argyll. We wanted to know the date when art was created on rock panels in the lower Add Valley and to know whether these acts were somehow hidden and liminal or were central to the daily agricultural round. A 14C assay on charcoal from a hearth at the foot of one rock indicated that c. 2400 cal BC was the likely date for these acts. But what did the valley look like then? Detailed geomorphological mapping of the valley floor and surrounding slopes, analyses of sediments accumulating in abandoned meanders, and pollen analyses from one of these c. 200 m from the rock art have allowed an exceptionally detailed, spatially precise reconstruction of almost every aspect of the landscape then. The creation of successive drafts of the reconstruction was an iterative process between analysts and artist but because the medium was visual it was very easy to translate directly what was imagined by the analysts from their data to the image being created by the artist. The result is an extraordinarily beautiful and evocative imagining but one that has very little guesswork.