Building crannogs in the 9th–12th centuries AD in northern Scotland: An old tradition in a new landscape

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The 9th–12th centuries AD are poorly understood archaeologically and historically in Scotland with few secure examples of high status secular or ecclesiastic settlement. This paper presents a new group of radiocarbon dates from crannogs, artificial islands known throughout Scotland, which were previously understood to fall out of use in the 9th–12th centuries AD. The dates point to a likelihood that further crannogs date to this period, and have identified new previously unknown power centres of secular potentates and ecclessiastic elites. This has significant implications for understanding how power and authority were exercised at this time of political and settlement landscape reorganisation, in particular how identity was expressed through the choice of different architecture. Using parallels and the meagre historical accounts of the use of island dwellings, we suggest that crannogs were often seasonally occupied as lordly residences with a range of functions including as hunting lodges. Given the exceptional preservation of crannogs, this new group of sites with 9th–12th century AD phases represent the best opportunities to explore the climate and economy of the period, and shed light on a period conspicuous for a lack of observable settlement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSeasonal settlement
Subtitle of host publicationIn the medieval and early modern countryside.
EditorsPiers Dixon, Claudia Theune
PublisherSidestone Press Academics
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-6427-011-2
ISBN (Print)978-94-6427-009-9
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameRuralia XIII
PublisherSidestone Press
ISSN (Print)2565-8883

Bibliographical note

Funding for many of the dates mentioned in the text have come from Historic Environment Scotland as part of the Living on Water project, the Aberdeen University Development Fund, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the Archaeology Service for Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen, Angus and Moray. We wish to thank the large number of individuals and organisation who have facilitated
access and granted permission to work at many of the sites mentioned in this paper. They include Catriona Reid, Thys Simpson, James Burnett, Alan and Kay Douthwaite, the Kinord Estate, the Leys Estate and the Seafield Estate.


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