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“Culduthel: An Iron Age craftworking centre in North-East Scotland” by Dr Candy Hatherley

Categories: Lectures / Events, Videos

Dr Candy Hatherley presents “Culduthel: An Iron Age craftworking centre in North-East Scotland” a lecture to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Dr Candy Hatherley presents on the Iron Age craftworking site of Culduthel, which was identified near Inverness in 2005. The results of this excavation have now been published and reveal a vivid picture of an Iron Age community engaged in developed and sustained production of iron, bronze and glass objects between the late First Millennium BC and early First Millennium AD. Dr Candy Hatherley takes us on a tour of the site and discuss what Culduthel means for Iron Age studies in Scotland and beyond.

You can also find the recently published book on Culduthel by both Dr Candy Hatherley and Ross Murray within our online shop.

Lecturer: Dr Candy Hatherley BA (Hons) PhD FSAScot MCIfA

Dr Candy Hatherley is an archaeologist with over 25 years of experience of excavation and research in Scotland and throughout the UK. Her research interests centre on later prehistoric settlement and the evolution of domestic stone architecture in north-east Scotland. She is currently a Project Manager at Headland Archaeology.

During Q&A there were several questions we didn’t have tome to address. Dr Hatherley has kindly provided her thoughts here:

From Marlena Wald:

Q: Are these furnaces similar to other Iron Age sites discovered in Scotland?

A: Thanks for your question Marlena. Culduthel is certainly the best preserved evidence for smelting furnaces in Scotland but other sites do have smithing furnace evidence in domestic settlements such as Seafield West in Inverness and smelting evidence at Bellfield Farm in North Kessock. Unfortunately these survive as pits with little of the upstanding superstructure (the stone settings) surviving years of ploughing. The use of these pits is often determined by the waste remaining (the slag and other debris).

Q: How were these glass components imported? Were there trade routes?

A: Thanks for your question Marlena. We do not know how glass was brought onto site or what route it travelled to get there. The glass appears to have been initially produced in the Eastern Mediterranean and may have come to the UK via various sea routes. Once here it may have travelled overland or by sea to its final destination at Culduthel. The Roman glass (both the specialist components and the Roman vessel glass) may have been brought to site through trade with tribes to the south or directly through contact with Roman mercenaries. By the later 1st century AD Roman material is increasingly found in northern Scotland and many think that this was in part evidence that the Romans were wooing the local tribes with fancy goods.

From Piers Dixon:

Q: What do you think is the significance of the daggers buried upright in pits?

A: Many thanks for your question Piers, and thank you for taking the time to listen in. As you are aware us archaeologists love the term ‘ritual’ without having to explain what this might actually mean….so a good tricky question to answer. The depositing of daggers within pits is seen twice on site and therefore I assume it carried a special individual meaning which we can not hope to know. Whether the burial of these items was seen as decommissioning event to keep them close but out of circulation once they had undertaken certain ‘acts’ or to mark a significant event in the life of the community or individual is unknown. Working on sites in Iron Age Scotland has certainly shown me that the act of deliberately burying items was very much part of life throughout this period and was part of everyday life. Powerful objects such as the daggers may have ‘increased’ the strength of this ritual and be undertaken at highly significant times. Certainly the daggers seem to be a very personal object, linked to a single person, the owner. To bury their dagger must have been a great personal loss – does this show that the person is now departed?

From Sheila Currie:

Q: Any thoughts about links with Craig Phadrig? Could this be the ‘industrial estate’ for that high-status site?

A: Many thanks for your question Shelia. From our current knowledge of Craig Phadrig the initial occupation may have stopped due to destruction by fire in by c. 200BC. The site was reoccupied in 4th century AD and may have become a Pictish stronghold. The earlier occupation of the fort appears to be too early for it to be contemporary with Culduthel but more work needs to be done to understand the Iron Age occupation of the site.

From Brian Guthrie:

Q: Do you think that the site should have been left like the archaeological sites in Orkney rather than an Asda car park.

A: Many thanks for your question Brian. Unfortunately all the archaeology identified at Culduthel was below the ground and would not have survived being exposed and displayed. As the ground was allocated for housing excavation of the site (careful destruction and recording and the removal of finds for analysis) is the best outcome for the settlement.

From Roz Gillis:

Q: hello a question for candy. great talk candy. given the long history of occupation in the area from mesolithic? to iron age..why did people repeatedly come to the area?

A: Hi Roz, thank you for coming along. The elevated terrace which Culduthel is located certainly appears to be attractive to settlers and visitors throughout history. It was a prominent place with excellent views out in all directions and would have been a focus in the landscape and a great place to be seen. In the Neolithic it appears to have been the focus for burial, with a mortuary enclosure identified close to the site. Perhaps this started a long history of the terrace as a special place, for burial throughout the Bronze Age, for settlement in the Iron Age and for display of stones in the Pictish period.

The Society lectures are gratefully funded by Sir Angus Grossart QC OBE DL LLD DLitt FRSE FSAScot

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