The earliest evidence for human habitation in Scotland is from 12,000 BCE . This evidence was found near Biggar in South Lanarkshire in 2005 (but not dated
until 2009). This is one of very few indicators of human habitation in Scotland during the late palaeolithic period. However, much of Scotland’s archaeology
remains to be investigated so further evidence may yet be found.
Clearer evidence of human life in Scotland dates from approximately 8,500 BCE. This is not surprising when we acknowledge that the last serious ice age
to affect Scotland ended in approximately 9,000 BCE. Substantial archaeological evidence from Cramond (now a Western suburb of Edinburgh) suggests
that human beings were encamped there.
There is plenty of evidence of human habitation across a wide range of Scottish locations over the next centuries with finds of buildings, settlements,
cookery remains, flint tools and middens.
During the Neolithic period from approximately 4,000 BCE we start to see some of the stone structures that are still to be found in Scotland. Some of the
great stone archaeology to be found on Orkney is very ancient and predates both the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt and Stonehenge in England. Very
close to where I live and where you will be staying is an ancient cursus or long banking of 1.8km in length dated to around 3600BCE.
The Cleaven Dyke or Meiklour cursus
It is from the period around 3,000 BCE that sees the widespread erection or organisation of the stone circles and standing stones of which there remain
very many in Scotland.
Croft Moraig Stone Circle, Perthshire
During the Bronze Age the population of Scotland is thought to have grown to about 300,000. Near Perth at Forteviot the tomb of a Bronze Age ruler from
around 2000 BCE was found to contain various treasures including a bronze and gold dagger. There are many burial cists and chambers evident from this
time. It is at this period that we start to see the emergence of roundhouses and hill forts. We also find increasing evidence of a priestly class in
parts of Scotland.
The earliest evidence of wheeled transport in Britain was found at Blair Drummond Moss in the centre of Scotland and not far south of Perth. It dates from
the last quarter of the second millennium BCE.
As the Bronze Age metamorphosed into the Iron Age we have the beginnings of recognisably Celtic culture. In the north and especially the northwest the
broch becomes a prominent structure.
Dun Carloway Broch, Isle of Lewis
Decorative items, jewellery and even musical instruments attest to a culture of creativity and representation.
Scottish pre-history ends with the arrival of the Romans in the first century of the Common Era. The Romans introduce the first written records relating
to Scotland and with them the beginning of Scottish history.
We use the more modern and inclusive convention of BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (the Common Era) in preference to the outmoded BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini – The year of the lord).