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Enclosing and Dividing Land: The Neolithic and Bronze Age Field Systems of Shetland

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Part of the Themes in Contemporary Archaeology book series (TCA)

Abstract

The transition to agriculture is one of the fundamental transformations in human society, but the evolution, organization, and character of early farming landscapes of the Neolithic and Bronze Age in many regions is poorly understood. The rarely paralleled preservation of extensive prehistoric houses, field systems, and burial monuments in the West Mainland of Shetland affords unique opportunities for understanding prehistoric societies. Despite their impressive preservation, the remains on Shetland have received comparatively little archaeological attention. This paper presents the results of a programme of mapping , using high-resolution aerial photographs, that explores the extent and spatial distribution of upstanding prehistoric remains within the landscape of the West Mainland. The mapping has revealed extensive field systems and foci of activity providing insights into the organisation of prehistoric settlement and land-use. The assimilation of these results with existing data from recent excavations has allowed for a more detailed understanding of the development of the early farming landscapes of Shetland.

Keywords

  • Shetland
  • West Mainland
  • Settlement
  • Land-use
  • Neolithic
  • Bronze Age
  • Aerial photography

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-71652-3_2
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Notes

  1. 1.

    These classifications will also be adopted within this paper as a means of differentiating between forms.

  2. 2.

    The recent radiocarbon dates from calcined animal bone fragments, recovered from the main peat layer in the interior, have been interpreted as being affected by the uptake of old carbon due to being burnt in peat with the date from the barley grains favored for the construction of the building (Sheridan et al. 2014: 215) (Radiocarbon Dates: 3857±33, OxA-X-2575-37, 4043±28, OxA-X-2579-42, 3964±3, OxA-X-2579-41).

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Christie, C. (2021). Enclosing and Dividing Land: The Neolithic and Bronze Age Field Systems of Shetland. In: Arnoldussen, S., Johnston, R., Løvschal, M. (eds) Europe's Early Fieldscapes . Themes in Contemporary Archaeology. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71652-3_2

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