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THE ISLE OF BUTE: AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESEARCH FRAMEWORK BY PAUL RJ DUFFY, THE RESIDENTS OF BUTE, AND THE SCOTTISH ARCHAEOLOGICAL COMMUNITY


INTRODUCTION This booklet is a synthesis of the results of the Discover Bute Landscape Partnership Scheme Archaeological Research Project. It has been produced to complement the DBLPS monograph publication ‘One Island, Many Voices: Bute Archaeology and the Discover Bute Landscape Partnership Scheme’ (Duffy 2013). The content is the result of extensive consultations with Scottish academics, local Bute residents and island visitors which asked people to identify key areas for future research on the island. These were distilled into six themes, which are presented here. There are three main aims for this booklet : firstly to highlight where local interest and national research priorities coincide; secondly to offer directions for where future research can best be targeted; and thirdly to utilise, for the first time, the work of Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF), published in 2012 (www.scottishheritagehub.com) in a local framework.

All text and photos ©PRJ Duffy unless otherwise stated 2


THE DISCOVER BUTE LANDSCAPE PARTNERSHIP SCHEME

The Discover Bute Landscape Partnership Scheme (DBLPS) was a four year £2.8 million partnership project between national, regional and local organisations. Its overall aim was to encourage people to engage with the Bute landscape and to leave a legacy of enhanced appreciation of that landscape. By the end of the project the DBLPS had attracted over 6000 attendee/volunteer days, sustained the equivalent of 13 full time local jobs, and laid significant foundations for the long term management and conservation of the built and natural heritage of Bute. Bute is an island rich in archaeology and heritage. Investigating and developing this resource for both academic and non-specialist audiences was a central theme of the DBLPS, most notably through the £200,000 Archaeological Research Project (ARP). Over 130 separate ‘events’ were undertaken through a number of key projects which received in return over 3000 attendee/volunteer days of assistance. Everyone with an interest in the island was invited to participate, to voice their opinions and to help shape the future directions of archaeological research on Bute. This principle helped created a new form of archaeological dialogue: a forum in which a shared understanding of the island’s heritage was fostered between many different groups and individuals. The knowledge gathered through these projects has now been synthesised to create a comprehensive and up-to-date resource for Bute’s archaeology and heritage. This booklet is the one part of that resource.

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GENERAL THEMES Several general themes of interest emerged from the project. Most significant was the vital role of the archaeological research within the local community. It is perhaps unsurprising that heritage was described not only as good fun, but also as a valuable economic driver for Bute. However, the identification of the work of the DBLPS as a method of instilling and reinforcing local pride in Bute through education about the landscape, history and archaeology of the island is perhaps an aspect of such projects that is often less clearly stated. Similarly the role of exploring past lifeways to provide future inspiration, for instance through local examples of success and entrepreneurship, was clearly identified. The concept of multiple understandings of the past informing the present to guide the future was also often discussed, not only as a leisure activity, or schools based process, but as a key part of the development and management of the island: a community educated about their past allows an informed community voice to be heard in the process of planning and development. Finally it was suggested that future research on Bute should strive to achieve a true collaboration between disciplines and to place an emphasis on qualitative rather than quantitative research. Specific areas identified for future research include:       

Systematic aerial survey analysis A full island LiDAR survey An integrated, heritage specific Geographical Information System for the island An oral history project on island life The need for continuing detailed site survey of archaeological monuments. The need for targeted programmes of research on artefactual material. The need for targeted programmes of excavation to provide dating evidence for sites such as hut circles and chapel sites.

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Locating sites with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

Excavations at Scalpsie Barrow 2010 5


The Dunagoil Fort Complex

Mount Stuart House Š Copyright Richard West and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons .

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THEME 1: POWER AND PRESTIGE From the Dunagoil fort complex to Mount Stuart House, the archaeology of Bute repeatedly demonstrates that the island has been a significant centre of power and influence from the earliest times. Although reasons for this prominence in the past are complex, it is certain that two key factors have contributed: the geographical position on the Clyde and the relative fertility of the land. In the early history of the island these factors aided control of the sea access to the upper Clyde and allowed the potential to generate crop surplus (Oram 2012). Later, holidaymakers in the late 19th and 20th century had a different, but no less significant, appreciation of these same factors: island location and landscape. It was recently suggested that Govan, now in Glasgow, has had ‘two periods of greatness’ - how many then can Bute be said to have had? A key research focus identified in the consultations was the Dunagoil fort complex, one of the earliest archaeological examples of power on Bute. This imposing volcanic mass dominates the western seaboard and was at least partially occupied from the Neolithic onwards. The fort and surrounds were subject to excavation from as early as the 18th century, but published results are vague, and re-analysis of the excavation evidence and artefactual material recovered is needed to understand the site more fully. Indeed as much of the suite of Bute’s artefactual evidence from the later third millennium and early second millennium BC (including copper halberds from Iberia and Ireland, possibly early beaker pottery and two exquisite jet necklaces [Sheridan 2012]) suggests prehistoric access to exotica, a wider reassessment of this material would be welcomed. An audit of museum holdings for artefactual material from Bute was undertaken during the DBLPS, offering a useful beginning for such a task and for a modern assessment of Bute’s place in the prehistoric regional social hierarchies. When considered in its wider landscape setting, the distribution of dun and fort sites on the west coast of Bute suggests a prehistoric desire to both protect and project power on this coast in particular. Why these westward facing fortifications were needed, and indeed who they was aimed at, is largely unexplored, as is the role in this 7


period of the other large fort on the island, at Barone Hill. Further work, including GIS and viewshed analysis would offer an excellent case study in regional hierarchies at this time and help to refine our understandings of the relationships between these sites, as would further site survey and keyhole excavation. A wider examination of all the later prehistoric power bases on the island would also form a valuable model for exploring settlement hierarchies across Argyll/ Strathclyde and the south-west in general. The focus of power remains around Dunagoil in the Early Historic period, and the relationship of the site to nearby early monastic settlements at Kingarth and Inchmarnock, and the wider secular and ecclesiastical hinterland, is poorly understood. It has recently been suggested that the nucleated fort of Little Dunagoil is likely to have been one of the central capita of the Cenél Comgaill, one of the major royal lineages of Dál Riada (Fraser 2009). St Blanes has also been put forward as the central ecclesiastical seat of the Cenél Comgaill and, for a time, a site on equal footing to Iona. Kingarth

Kingarth Monastery © RCAHMS 8


may even have preceded Iona as the principle see of Dál Riada (Woolf 2007; Raven 2012). New field surveys and excavations at both sites are beginning to untangle the potential relationship between the two sites but more such work is desirable, in particular to illuminate the complex relationships between secular and spiritual power on the island and how these manifested in wider regional and national power struggles between Dál Riata, Pictland, Strathclyde and the Northumbrian kingdoms. Kingarth was eventually eclipsed by Iona in terms of notoriety and longevity. The role of Bute as a regional power centre, however, clearly continued. Intriguing recent suggestions as to the possible role of Rothesay or, more recently, Cnoc an Rath as a medieval assembly site or Viking ting site hint at the island as a regional centre for law-giving and law-making. Work by Clancy (2008) has proposed Bute as the Gall-Gaedhil heartland, and the identification of the Norse estates on the island through place name study (Markus 2012) may provide some support for this. However, archaeological evidence for a Viking presence remains limited: a gaming piece and gold ring from Kingarth; a Viking sword hilt from Drumlachloy, a fragmented Norse rune-inscribed cross-slab at Inchmarnock and, most recently, a silver ingot. Given this scarcity of evidence, the partially excavated longhouses at Little Dunagoil are worthy of re-examination, but it is probable that chance discovery offers as likely a source for further evidence as any route. The foundation of the castle at Rothesay by the 12th century emphasises the continuing central place of Bute in the fluctuating battle lines between the Norse and their successors in the western mainland fringes and the islands, and the expanding power of the Scottish kingdom. It also was identified during the DBLPS project as the second key site through which themes of power and prestige could be explored. One of the earliest masonry castles in Scotland, it was here that ‘The Bruce’ may have acknowledged the support of his south-western lords at Bannockburn with a sup from the Bute Mazer. It is also where the story of the Stuart kings began, and where medieval power and prestige on Bute becomes deeply intertwined with history shaping national events. More immediately, the building of the castle switches the local focus of 9


DBLPS Kids Archaeology Week: At Rothesay Castle with Historic Scotland

power from the west to the east of the island, the reasons for which remain relatively unexplored. As a key royal stronghold, Bute was a ‘doon the watter’ trip for successive Scottish Stuart kings, most notably Robert II, Robert III, James IV and James V. This historical status offers excellent opportunities for the study of the dynamics between Royal castle, medieval burgh and agricultural hinterland including the royal hunting forest at Balnakailly. Intriguingly, for example, few medieval fortified buildings appear to exist outwith of Rothesay Castle, suggesting a dominance of local power by the Stuarts. Yet Stuart attempts to impose a new island identity through the promotion of St Brendon fail (Markus 2012), perhaps hinting at underlying local resilience to power and the powerful. The small scale of the island offers excellent opportunities to understand how (and indeed if) local people are affected by the grand narratives of history, and how these relations played out between Bute, Linlithgow, Stirling and other royal centres.

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The burgh declined in the 16th and 17th centuries, and with it the status of Bute. National events moved on, and as the west became pacified so the strategic importance of the island reduced. Almost inversely the power of the Bute Stuarts grew. The physical results of this can be seen in both the construction (and rebuilding) of the third great power centre of the island, Mount Stuart House, and in the reorganisation of their tenanted landholdings on the island. These activities, offer significant opportunities for richly supported studies of the period; most notably through extensively mapped archaeological remains and the rich documentary and cartographic evidence contained within the Mount Stuart Archive. Wider comparisons, with other Bute estates in the UK such as Lutton Hoo in Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire offer further opportunity to assess regional approached to estate management in Britain, and the direct effect on the inhabitants of those lands. From the late 19th century onwards the prestige of the burgh grew again through a combination of entrepreneurship and tourism. The reputation and reach of Rothesay was international, and whilst the tourist trade was the most visible aspect of Bute’s status at this time, it was undoubtedly the wealth of empire flowing onto this small island that underpinned and drove prosperity. This ‘age of empire’ and the local entrepreneurs who drove processes on Bute are lightly studied, as are the effects of the tourist boom that developed from the increasing leisure time these factors encouraged. In particular studies are long overdue on both the artefactual records and the architectural developments of this time, such as the modernist Rothesay Pavilion, With empire came war, and Bute’s place in first the European wars of the 18th and 19th century, then in the First and Second World Wars, and latterly in the Cold War offers an excellent opportunity to study the impact of international power struggles on local communities. Much history and archaeology has yet to be examined and synthesised in order to place Bute into its regional context for this key period. What exists undoubtedly reflects the human aspects of continental scale events, be it through individual stories, collective histories and physical traces left by groups such as the Bute Volunteers and the Bute Battery. 11


Glenvoidean Chambered Cairn

St Colmacs Church 12


THEME 2: RELIGION AND BURIAL Bute’s landscape abounds with monuments of religious and ritual significance - from Neolithic cairns to Bronze Age barrows to medieval and later church sites. Sites can often be seen as local expressions of wider trends, such as the early Christian churches of the island, but significant aspects of spiritual life on Bute do, perhaps, suggest a particular importance or status of the island at specific periods in history. Bute’s earlier prehistoric archaeological landscapes could reasonably be said to be dominated by expressions of religion and burial. Burial monuments, and the artefactual material gathered from within such monuments, form the basis of our understanding of prehistory on the island, from the great Neolithic chambered cairns of Cairnbaan and Glenvoidean to the numerous Bronze Age cists, cairns and barrows. These sites are supplemented by further expressions of apparent spiritual or religious practice such as the many examples of rock art, the megalithic stone arrangements at St Colmac’s and Blackpark and the presumably votive deposits of metalwork at Largizean. All of this record has recently been revised, and is a key resource through which the physical organisation and artefactual expression of local prehistoric spirituality can be understand through time. In particular the rock art of the island offers a well defined corpus of material to allow exploration of expressions of local style, spatial location and interrelationship with local context (such as geology and soil type), and with other site types. The contextualisation of this relatively simple material within the regional landscape of Argyll could also prove informative. A similar context may also offer new ways of exploring the complex motivations behind the use and reuse of chambered cairns in earlier prehistory. A re-examination of local landscapes is a complimentary and potentially valuable line of enquiry for the early prehistoric period. Recent geophysical work at St Colmacs Cottages has, for example, confirmed the probable presence of a second stone circle adjacent to the existing scheduled monument (Ovenden and Wilson 2012), 13


St Colmacs Cottages: Stone Circle

first rediscovered through archive research by George Geddes of RCAHMS. Adjacent to this is another, as yet undefined, structure: as a complex these sites pose intriguing questions as to the character of local prehistoric religious foci, and the regional relationships between islands such as Bute and Arran. Further landscape scale survey through analysis of aerial survey, LiDAR,, geophysics and targeted excavation may yet reveal additional elements of this complex both here, and in landscapes such as Largizean. In contrast, the later prehistoric period, from the late Bronze Age onwards, is dominated by settlement sites, with few immediately obvious religious or burial sites. It is clear, however, that there may be the potential to trace the origins of several religious foci in the early Christian period back to this time. The headland of St Ninian’s Point for example contains a putative late Iron Age long cist cemetery, an overlying early Christian chapel site and two well sites, all within a discreet area, and offers an excellent opportunity to understand the relationship between these elements in the landscape. This potential transformation of Iron Age religious sites into early Christian centres of worship is one that may be explored at Kilmichael, and indeed at St Blanes, where the enigmatic cauldron feature and holy well offer intriguing hints of a prehistoric origin to the early monastic centre. Caves may also yet prove to be as yet understudied religious focii (Alexander 2012). 14


Whatever the origins, a significant corpus of Early Christian archaeology clearly exists on Bute. Recent work on nearby Inchmarnock (Lowe 2008) has demonstrated the rich potential of excavation at early monastic sites and has posed interesting questions as to the relationship between Inchmarnock, the early monastic settlement of St Blanes and the proliferation of undated small ‘chapel’ sites throughout Bute (Raven 2012). Systematic study of the relationships between these monuments, ideally through a programme including targeted radiocarbon dating, would be valuable both as a local expression of a phenomenon repeated throughout the west coast and in relation to national questions about the nature of the early Christian church in Scotland. The relationship between these sites and the wider ecclesiastical sees in which they operated may also help to illuminate some of the complex and somewhat fragmentary evidence for the Dalriadic and successor kingdoms of the west coast. In particular the expansion of early Stuart power on the island and relationships with the kingdom of Strathclyde, both inexorably linked with the story of the making of

Wall and Aubrey at Kilmichael Chapel consolidated by the DBLPS in 2011

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Scotland, may be traced both through religious monuments such as church sites, material culture, such as sculpted stones, and through hagiography. The establishment of the castle, the development of the burgh and the foundation of firstly St Brides Chapel, and later St Mary’s Chapel all promoted the move of religious focus from Kingarth to Rothesay, although the former survived as a working parish church until the late 16th century. This relocation of focus from the west coast to the east clearly results from the establishment of a major new fortification on the east coast in the form of Rothesay Castle. The move offers an interesting case study in the changing interrelationships between the church and the secular patronage on which it at least partly depended. The historical study of the effects of reformation, the Gaelic church on Bute and local attitudes to religion through documentary sources such as the Kirk Session records are illuminating as to the social history of the island. Although most of the churches are still extant, sites such as the cave at the Mecknock used for worship after the demise of St Blane’s chapel may provide interesting glimpses into folk practices. Graveyard studies also cast light on local routes and connections, such as at Kilmichael which appears to have been utilised by inhabitants of Cowal rather than Bute in the late 19th and early 20th century, and accessed by boat.

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Sculptured Stone from Kingarth Monastery SC 403033 © Crown Copyright: RCAHMS. Licensor www.rcahms.gov.uk

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Saddle Quern from Townhead © Bute Museum

Rig and Furrow above South Kelspoke Farmstead

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THEME 3: AGRICULTURE - THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF A FARMING ISLAND The contemporary character and archaeological past of Bute is inexorably linked with, and has been undoubtedly shaped by agricultural practice. Whilst 21st century farmers on Bute face a range of challenges which make the farming vocation ever more difficult to sustain, it is worth remembering that they represent a way of life that has its origins in the prehistoric communities of the island. Although there is possible paleoenvironmental evidence for protofarming activities on Bute from as far back as 8000 years ago, the practice of cereal growing and domestic animal rearing on the island probably wasn’t established until around 4,500 BC (Timpany and Wheeler 2012). As discussed in the previous theme. evidence of these early prehistoric farmers is dominated by examples of how they buried their dead, rather than by how they lived. Only one Neolithic habitation site has been identified, at Townhead, with a possible second at Kilchattan Bay, and none exist for the early Bronze Age, save possibly the fort sites of Dunagoil and Barone Hill. Neither is there evidence for agricultural practices: the walls, field boundaries and even ard marks of earlier prehistory having apparently been reused, remodelled and removed by successive later generations. It is not until the first millennium BC that we start to see definitive examples of where these early farmers might have lived, first in the form of unenclosed hut circles, and later in the suite of more substantial duns which are scattered down the west coast of the island. Systematic examination of aerial surveys and cropmark evidence may prove vital in revealing earlier field systems and land divisions, and filling these gaps in the local record. Aerial multispectral survey and recording, such as LiDAR, may also offer further ways to understand these landscapes. From those sites we know there are, however, some glimpses of the lives of these earliest farmers. A small but not insubstantial 19


assemblage of animal bones, a rich pottery assemblage, a suite of lithic material, and remains from middens give some idea of local economy and manufacture. Spindle whorls, querns, combs and even a bone whistle, most notable from Dunagoil and Dun Scalpsie, give some idea of local practices whilst isolated finds of Neolithic axes and jet necklaces from Inchmarnock and Mount Stuart reflect networks of contacts for these early farming communities that extend far beyond Bute. Megalithic stones at St Colmacs Cottages and Largizean and deliberately discarded rare metal halberds at Largizean similarly hint at preoccupations beyond the day to day rhythms of the yearly farming cycle. Some impression of these early farmers can therefore be gained from these material residues. Re-evaluation of the artefactual material has recently begun (ie Finlay 2012; Sheridan 2012) and much remains to be discovered through a fresh look at this record. Medieval rural settlement also appears to be scarce in the archaeological record on Bute, although further exploration of putative 13th century buildings at Little Dunagoil, and the RCAHMS survey evidence of earlier house platforms at the same site, may be significant. Similarly, it is not inconceivable that some of the many deserted settlement sites recorded by BNHS harbour evidence of medieval foundation. Of particular note is the recent work on Bute place names (Markus 2012) which has identified the broad boundaries of the Norse estates on the island, and also work on later land divisions (Hannah 2012). For the first time we have an understanding of the character of land divisions on the island that may stretch as far back as the 11th century; further study of the relationship between these divisions and archaeological monuments, combined with later map and documentary evidence, is highlighted as a fruitful area to pursue to untangle the complex rural landscape palimpsest that exists at present. GIS based analysis and LiDAR survey may be particularly helpful in this regard. In contrast to the above, the later medieval and improvement periods offer a wealth of information about farming practice and rural living (eg Geddes 2012). Mapping of deserted rural settlements began in the early 1970s on Bute and BNHS members 20


The Viking Estates of Bute ŠG Markus

have bequeathed a tremendous legacy to scholars with a comprehensive glossary of rural settlement sites, including a more recent survey and interpretation of key sites along the West Island Way (see McArthur 2012). This work is now moving towards further measured survey of deserted sites and also extant farm 21


buildings, the latter being a particular priority as many become subject to modern renovation and renewal. Enhancing this resource is the internationally significant archive at Mount Stuart which holds a wealth of estate records charting the day to day interactions between the Stuart landowners, their farming tenants and their mutual relationship to the land, in particular from the 17th century onwards. Estate maps and inventories by Foulis and May are complimented by earlier mapping by Roy and documentary evidence from the 15th century Exchequer Rolls onwards. Indeed it is the agricultural richness detailed through such sources that may have been a key factor in Bute’s attractiveness to external powers from the early historic period onward (Oram 2012). Recent work on a peat core recovered from the north end of Bute (Timpany and Wheeler 2012) has also now established a master paleoenvironmental chronology for the island. As well as providing the first dated evidence for potential clearance of virgin woodland on the island (c 8000 years ago) it charts the changes in vegetation landscapes up to the post-medieval period and, indirectly, the impact of farming on the island through the observation of relative frequencies of plant types. With this chronology now established further work, perhaps on loch cores, or paleoenvironmental samples from crannogs, or at other deep peat deposits, can start to refine this picture offering a unique chance to gauge the effects of human farming activity across a contained study area over time. A further and often overlooked resource is the farming community of Bute themselves. Many of the farms have been tenanted by the same family for generations, and most farmers possess an intimate and often valuable knowledge of historical aspects of the land on which they live and work. A rich oral history also still exists within the community of early 20th century farming practices on the island which is in urgent need of collection. Similarly, the rich urban horticultural heritage of the island, exemplified perhaps by John Dobbies original Rothesay nursery but illustrated in hundreds of small market gardens across the island before and after is worthy of both oral and documentary history research. Such examples of 22


island self sufficiency stand as both testament to past generations and inspirations for current and future ones.

Knocking Stone at Balnakailly Township

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Overflow Channel for Thoms Cuts at Kirk Dam

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THEME 4: RESOURCEFUL BUTE Bute abounds in natural resources, which have attracted human interest from the earliest times. Some, such as shellfish, land, or herring, have been readily useable, whilst others, such as lime, have been manipulated through adoption of new technologies. Less tangible resources such as landscape, air quality and vista have also become increasingly significant in the island economy since the mid 19th century. The most frequent recurring theme during the research framework discussions, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the significance of water. The story of hydro-power in Rothesay, for example was identified as a potential case study of the way in which natural water courses were first used, then harnessed through canalisation, enhanced by the provision of a dam and eventually supplemented by the construction of a wider network of channels in the form of Thoms Cuts (see Duffy 2012). Similarly, exploration of the role of water as both a facilitator of communication between locations and a divider of communities was also highlighted. Recent discussions of promoting Bute as a ‘blue space’ have also highlighted how studies of the past use of water resources can resonate with the present. Most notable in this regard was the development of hydropathic hotels such as the Glenburn Hotel (Scotland’s first ‘hydro’) and later the Kyles Hotel at Port Bannatyne. The health giving properties of water can also be seen in the history of Bute’s own mineral water suppliers - the Rock Spring Company - and at the site of the now partially ruined outdoor swimming pool, as well as the numerous saintly wells across the island, some of which may be Iron Age in origin. The economy of Bute continues to be integrated with water, with langoustine trawling, seaweed collection and commercial sea fishing all still an active part of island life, as well as recreational mackerel and trout fishing, sailing and kayaking. Some of these activities can be paralleled in the archaeological record, from sites such as the Glecknabae shell midden to the early 20th century trout hatcheries at Greenan Burn. 25


Perhaps, however, it is the development of the herring fishing industry which is the key resource for the archaeology and heritage of the island, at least in terms of understanding the modern landscape. In particular, work at the village of Straad by ACFA (Hothersall 2012) perhaps provides the best opportunity for further archaeological work in this area, offering a suite of built elements through which to understand a local response to a national economic phenomenon. A similarly rich vein of research lies in the relationship between local settlements and the fishing industry, with hints in the documentary record of significant desertification of farming ‘toons’ in favour of a life, or even a share, in a herring ‘buss’. The utilisation of earth resources has a similar longevity on Bute, with the possible Mesolithic quarrying of agate outcrops at Plan Farm being perhaps the earliest example (Finlay 2012). The excavation and exploitation of terrestrial resources forms a second coherent theme in discussion of resourceful Bute, with a succession of local ventures exploiting slate, coal, limestone and clay (eg

Fisherman's Cottages at Straad 26


Probable logging track at Balnakailly

Geddes 2012). The remnants of these industrial activities have left tangible remains scattered across the island, many of which remain to be fully mapped and surveyed, whilst a rich documentary and map resource exists to complement these understandings of early industrial activity. Several of these activities successfully developed from local supply into export ventures, such as the shipping of 13,000 slates for Dumbarton Castle in the 15th century, whilst others, such as coal mining proved to be less fruitful. The latter example in particular provides a useful case study of attempts to utilise new resources not only to aid industry, but also to free up labour resources, much of which were devoted to peat cutting for domestic fuel (Geddes 2012). The search for Bute coal, the relationship between this and the salt pans at Ascog and responses to the lack of substantive fossil fuel deposits on the island also provide a useful case study for examining the local impact of the industrial revolution from an unusual angle. 27


A third area identified in this theme is the use of trees, wood and woodlands. Recent work on the historic woodlands of Bute (Quelch 2012; Hannah 2012) has provided a useful baseline understanding of how woodland was enclosed and managed in the later historic period, whilst a new paleoenvironmental survey charts the rise and fall of woodland types in broad brush strokes. A more detailed and synthetic study of the ancient woodlands of the island would be informative. The presence of multiple charcoal platforms at Barmore Wood, Lenihuline, Shalunt and Balnakailly also demonstrate the importance of industry within such woodlands. Bute provides an excellent opportunity to revisit the potentially complex role of simple industrial; sites such as charcoal platforms, and to understand the longevity and functions of such sites. Recent suggestions of a largely export market for Bute charcoal, for example, are particularity intriguing (Geddes 2012) . The modern community purchase of the forest at Balnakailly also prompts a re-look at the changing roles of woodland and trees on the island over time, not only as a resource but also as a venue for leisure and recreational activity. The royal hunting forest at Balnakailly and the substantial plantings at Mount Stuart, for example, provide excellent case studies in this regard. The many roles of the town woodlands, temporary residential accommodation for tourists, liminal space, commercial plantation etc also hold great promise in exploring ‘Woodland Bute’. A final resource identified for this theme is that of people, and the role of the local inhabitants both as a flexible labour resource and source of entrepreneurial vision and ambition. At a large scale the human resource can be set against changing opportunities presented from the 17th century onwards, as successive initiatives brought fishing, customs responsibilities, lime quarrying, tile and brick making, cotton spinning, industrialisation and other such interests to what had been a predominantly agricultural community. As an island Bute has been particularly open to the effects of entrepreneurial endeavour and is an ideal location to understand how local communities respond to such challenges. 28


Archaeology can track the spread and development of widespread changes like Improvement, but it can also provide insights into people’s responses to such changes. Did people on Bute engage with Improvement in particular ways? Did they adopt new habits, adapt them, or resist them? Many of these entrepreneurs were local, such as James Dobbie whose seed and gardens business become a national enterprise; and further research on this wealth of local talent, particularly in the 19th century, would be welcomed (eg MacCallum 2012) as is the relationships of these men to Glasgow, and to the wider British empire. Similarly, the systematic collection of the islands rich oral history has been much neglected and demands immediate attention. Further themes that arose from the research framework consultation also include whether the decline of industry was a key factor in creating opportunities for tourism; what were the unintended consequences of innovations like Improvement and of the increasing dependence on a market economy which came with Improvement; how did such developments in the period from the 16th century onwards lead, intentionally and unintentionally, to the character of life on Bute as it is today?

Modern charcoal burning by Woodwatch Bute 29


Looking south over St Blanes

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THEME 5: LANDSCAPES AND LIVING The landscape of Bute has undoubtedly been an important influence on living on the island from the earliest times. The Highland Boundary Fault defines a physical division in the solid geology and fertility of the island whilst processes of volcanic fire, ice, post glacial rebound and the sea, as well as climatic cycles through time, have further shaped it. Onto this natural canvas human activity has been impressed: encouraged in some areas and restricted in others by the physical world around it. A significant understanding to emerge in relation to living is the relative lack of knowledge about settlement patterns over much of the island’s history. We have a fragmentary and incomplete picture of early prehistoric settlement on the island, and evidence of late Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement, although better, is likely to due as much to survivability as reality. The situation is little improved in the medieval period and although at least some of the deserted rural settlements on the island may have their origins in the earlier medieval period, none have been excavated. Place name evidence may offer some useful evidence for the Norse settlement of the island through estate names, and 15th century documentation certainly offers corroboration of the existence of named settlements, but neither of these sources shows us where the settlements themselves physically are. Indeed, it is not until we have solid mapping evidence from Roy’s mid 18th century map that we can more certainly begin to understand the settlement distribution on Bute.

There is also currently only a broad overview of past landscape and landscape change on Bute through the ages. Although the DBLPS paleoenvironmental and sea level projects have resulted in a much improved understanding of Bute’s past landscapes, further study, both in the form of additional coring and environmental analysis from excavated sites would enhance the resolution of this picture. In particular, the southern end of the island should be seen as a priority for any paleoenvironmental work, both to inform understandings of the nationally important sites of Dunagoil and St Blanes, and to provide a balance for the existing study from the north end. 31


Several important avenues for future research were identified to help fill the gaps in our knowledge of the settlement record. As illustrated by cropmark evidence at Blackpark and Little Kilchattan, there is a significant potential for identifying earlier settlement sites through study of the aerial survey record (Alexander 2012; Finlay 2012). The most recent sortie dates from 2010 and a systematic study of this and earlier records may reveal much. There is also clearly a need to refine the dating of sites that we do know of. None of the hut circles on the island, for example, have been excavated and. although regional parallel would suggest they relate to the Bronze Age, this can only be confirmed through fieldwork. Newly identified round house sites at Dunagoil and Dun Scalpsie offer additional potential for understanding whether occupation of these sites is a constant or intermittent act. Bute’s three crannogs also remain undated, and rock shelter and cave sites may offer a further opportunity for understanding prehistoric activity. A recent suggestion that Bronze Age burial sites may be used as a clue to locate less robust settlement sites (Sheridan 2012) is also an interesting area to pursue. Not withstanding this incomplete record, changes in perceptions of landscape and landscape use can perhaps be seen in the monument distributions, with the southern half of the island a focus for much of prehistory, with the area north of the Kames Bay/Ettrick Bay isthmus remained largely devoid of known or proxy settlement evidence until the medieval period. An apparent focus on the coastal fringe can also be seen by the Iron Age. This southerly focus is reinforced in the Norse place name evidence. Undoubtedly, the southern part of the island is the most fertile farming land, but it is worth considering whether this pattern of place names is real or is a product of survival of sites. If so, then significant questions arise, not least the apparent move to the coast in the Iron Age, and the relocation of the settlement focus from west to east in the medieval period. A useful study would examine what drove such changes in the island settlement character: were they just strategic, or driven by wider landscape factors, climate, land requirements or even technological changes such as ship draft or weapons reach. 32


The Palimpsest Landscape of Scalpsie Bay

A further important theme is the understandings of how landscape characteristics and ways of life within that landscape may echo as a legacy in later periods. Was, for example, the specific character of Improvement on Bute conditioned by the nature of the landscape bequeathed by earlier generations or were notions of landscape entirely reinvented? Within this theme the inter-relationship of settlement sites with each other and with local landscape becomes interesting. Did, for example, the siting of duns predominate on the west coast as a result of a restriction of appropriate landscapes on which to build, or was the location determined by pre-existing land divisions? Similarly, was the location of many of the Improvement farmsteads between the 20m and 30m contour line a choice determined by local landscape wisdom, or a result of scientific knowledge? Underpinning many of these potential research routes is a final theme, the question of definitions of landscape, and how such definitions relate to in an island environment such as Bute. Clearly, in one sense the landscape of Bute is well defined by a coastline. Yet, closer investigation reveals a myriad of alternative understandings of what landscape Bute sat in: from the political landscape of Buteshire to the tourist landscape of the Clyde Riviera. Further exploration of how such understandings were arrived at, were reinforced and were manifest offer much potential for further research. 33


Cup Marks on capstone at Cairn Baan Chambered Cairn

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THEME 6: BEING BRANDANE An island is physically defined by its boundary with the sea. More complex, however, are definitions of what it means to belong to an island community, and of where such communities sit in wider geopolitical spheres. Micro identities are a vibrant part of island life today, and can also perhaps be seen in the archaeological record. This theme asks how we can understand what being Bute resident has meant through time, and seeks to explore how such identities have been imported to, exported from and forged on Bute. Physical manifestations of island identity are almost entirely absent for the earliest Brandane and much of the prehistoric archaeology is challenging in terms of understanding expressions of identity. Much of the evidence appears to be local expressions of regional styles, most notably through funerary monuments - the chambered cairn, the cist, the cairn, the barrow. Local nuances of expressions may, however, still be found in more detailed study of the monuments and their relationship to surrounding landscape, and through study of aspects of material culture, such as the ‘Rothesay style’ of Neolithic pottery (Finlay 2012). A detailed reassessment of the suite of prehistoric pottery in particular may offer understandings of the way in which local identity is expressed through the artefactual records at this time. A re-analysis of the sites themselves could also prove fruitful both within in the wider regional context of Cowal, Kilfinan, and Argyll, and in exploring evidence for intra-island territories or groupings. Another promising category of evidence for understanding early local identity comes through the later Neolithic rock art of the island. Over 80 sites are now known, but in contrast to much of more complex Argyll carvings examples from Bute are entirely simple cups or cup-in-rings. Detailed analysis of form and landscape location, prospective survey and possibly even excavation would allow this discreet and unusual collection of rock carvings to be understood more clearly in its regional context. The distribution of rock art, which broadly mirrors that of the chambered tombs, may also hint at intra-island identities, with most found in the north and west of the island, and a 35


corresponding absence in the south and east. Similarly regional expression can be seen in the known Iron Age sites from the island, comprising forts, duns and hut circles. It is at this time we have our first indication of what this identity might have been: Ptolemy’s second century AD map places Bute between the Damnonii of Ayrshire/ Renfrewshire and the Epidii of Argyll (see Alexander 2012). Although there is no way of understanding whether this is how the people of Bute referred to themselves, the name ‘Epidii’ (horse people) is interesting in that the later place name evidence of Roseland may indicate the presence of a Viking horse farm on the island (Markus 2012). In the early historic period this area becomes externally identified as Dál Riata, part of the Cenel Comgall, but in common with the rest of Dál Riata territory the impact of gaelicisation of the landscape place names does not appear to be reflected to the settlement or artefactual evidence. Recent suggestion about Bute’s standing in this network of early Gaelic kingdoms does, however, suggest that a re-evaluation of the archaeological evidence from the period may be useful in exploring more regional questions about the Scotii ‘invasion’. From this early evidence emerges a picture of an island, not separated from other land masses by the sea but joined to other land masses by it. This may seem an obvious statement, but accepting Bute identity as predominantly part of regional networks at this time has interesting repercussions. Questions of islanders and incomers, for example, may be less significant and local identities may require more careful analysis – later evidence from Kilmichael graveyard, for example, indicates that many of the burials there originate from the community of Kames, across the water. Is this an echo of more ancient affinities? This theme, of what it is to be ‘Brandane’ and what it is to be an ‘incomer’, was one that was repeatedly identified in the consultation work for the research frameworks. It is worthy of note in this regard that the St Brendan connection (and thus the term Brandane) has recently been suggested to be a 14th century Stuart 36


Duncans Halls, and tenements, Rothesay

initiative to manipulate the identity of Bute: to emphasise the distinction between the Stuarts and the lords of Argyll and the outer islands, whose key saint was Columba (Markus 2012). Similar attempts to develop a new feudal identify for Bute can perhaps also be seen in the masonry of St Blane’s, Inchmarnock and St Mary’s Chapel, but place name and personal name evidence, suggests that the local population retained their allegiances to the older Gaelic saints prevalent throughout the west coast. This attempted supplanting of identify would be an excellent area for further study. Later evidence highlights the fluidity of communities on Bute – with the agricultural hiring cycle, the herring industry, the cotton mills, and numerous other foci serving to bring people onto the island to satisfy labour demands. To date there has been little work done on the experience and influence of the migrant: either as a seasonal worker or a long term settler, for any period although the rich culture of the travelling community of Argyll has always promoted a stronger and better documented identity. How migrants were 37


perceived by the resident community, what influences they have had and how these influence can be seen is a topic rich in potential. In more modern times it has been tourism that has dominated the economic landscape of Bute and how this huge seasonal influx of people came to affect the island identity is an excellent case study in rapid changes in both island architecture and economic fortunes. What, for example, do the red sandstone tenements of Rothesay say about this relationship? Are they an imported fashion, a locally produced mimic, or a conscious reproduction of home to entice the thousands of families who descended from Glasgow every summer? What is the material culture signal of this era and how does it differ from what went before? Can the effects of this economic stimulus be seen in the rural landscape or was it an entirely urban phenomenon? Perhaps more than anything else tourism dominates the common perception of both Bute and Rothesay, and is an area that demands more study than has been afforded to date.

Bibliography Throughout this booklet, author references in bold refer to papers in One Island, Many Voices, and the interested reader is directed there. Additional references are: Clancy, T O 2008 ‘The Gall-Ghàidheil and Galloway’ Journal of Scottish Name Studies 2, 19-50. Duffy, P 2011 Thoms Cuts: an engineering masterpiece, Bute, Brandanii. Fraser, J 2009 From Caledonia to Pictland: Scotland to 795. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Hannah, A 2012 in Ritchie, A (ed) Historic Bute: Land and People Lowe, C 2008 Inchmarnock. An early historic island monastery and its archaeological landscape. Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Oram, R 2012 in Ritchie, A (ed) Historic Bute: Land and People

Woolf, A 2007 From Pictland to Alba, 789-1070. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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FURTHER DBLPS READING One Island Many Voices: Bute Archaeology and the Discover Bute Landscape Partnership Scheme edited by Paul RJ Duffy (2012) Shaun Tyas, Donnington. A 176 page, all colour synthesis of new research and review by archaeology professionals and local enthusiasts which brings the current state of knowledge about the island right up to date. The Archaeological Landscapes of Bute by George Geddes and Alex Hale (2010) Edinburgh: RCAHMS. A portable and richly illustrated field guide produced by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and the DBLPS, which details every archaeological site on the island. The Placenames of Bute by Gilbert Markus (2012) Shaun Tyas, Donnington A fantastically detailed and in depth modern study of the meaning and significance of island place names. Funded by the DBLPS. Historic Bute: Land and People edited by Anna Ritchie (2012) Scottish Society for Northern Studies, Shetland

A collection of fascinating essays arising from the Scottish Society of Northern Studies Conference held on the island and supported by the DBLPS. The Historic Woodlands of Bute by Peter Quelch (2012), Buteshire Natural History Society, Bute An excellent guide to the ancient woods of Bute and how they have been utilised by people over time. Funded by the DBLPS. Thoms Cuts: an engineering masterpiece By Paul RJ Duffy (2011) Bute, Brandanii

The story of Thom’s unique hydro system for the cotton mills of Rothesay. Funded by the DBLPS. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Brandanii Archaeology and Heritage www.discoverbutearchaeology.co.uk. The National Monuments Database

www.rcahms.gov.uk

West of Scotland Archaeology Services

www.wosas.net

The Bute Museum

www.butemuseum.org 39


This booklet is a synthesis of the results of the Discover Bute Landscape Partnership Scheme Archaeological Research Project. It summarises the results of the unique collaboration between the Scottish academic community and the local Bute community during the project, and draws together the key interests identified under six main themes.

Paul RJ Duffy was the DBLPS deputy project manager for archaeology. He now runs Brandanii Archaeology and Heritage, which continues to promote the archaeology and heritage of Bute to a worldwide audience. Designed, arranged, typeset and published by

The Isle of Bute: An Archaeological Research Framework  
The Isle of Bute: An Archaeological Research Framework  
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