Stripped Naked, Flayed to the Bone and then Drowned: Settlement Failure in Coastal Scotland in the 14th and 15th Centuries

Author(s): Richard Oram

Year: 2015


Archaeological excavation of medieval settlements in the coastal districts of Scotland has revealed significant evidence of protracted environmental impacts on their material culture exploitation regimes and domestic economies between the later 13th and early 16th centuries. These impacts are represented chiefly by shifts in the marine species being exploited or changes in the levels, species and age profiles of livestock carried on grazing-land, or trends in the suite of cultivars represented, all signifying attempts to adapt to environmental change with varying degrees of success. At several sites dispersed from Orkney to the Outer Hebrides and Buchan to Lothian, however, integrated archaeological and documentary historical research has revealed where failure to adapt practices which emerged in the MCA to the changed circumstances of the ‘little ice age’ - in soil ‘improvement’ strategies, fuel resource exploitation or construction-material management – accelerated settlement decline and contributed to system failure and abandonment in even such a resource diverse region as Scotland. This paper will discuss the consequences of adherence to traditional agricultural practices during this era of deteriorating climate, exploring particularly the impact of increased storminess on arable-intensive communities.

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Cite this Record

Stripped Naked, Flayed to the Bone and then Drowned: Settlement Failure in Coastal Scotland in the 14th and 15th Centuries. Richard Oram. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397168)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;