In September every year, Scotland celebrates archaeology.
In fact, Scotland celebrates archaeology every day of the year. There’s so much of it around, and so much to learn and celebrate.
What is archaeology about? What do archaeologists do?
Archaeology is about the many ways of learning about how people lived and what they did in the past. That learning takes place from the study of material objects, from seeds to buildings, from coins to road ways.
Investigate, inform, inspire is the tagline Archaeology Scotland often uses. It works all year round. Scottish Archaeology Month in September is a great time to pay attention to what may be learned from the past. Here are ideas about ways to do that.
If you are in Scotland during September.
Keep an eye out for notices of doors open days. More than a thousand historic places across Scotland, from Shetland in the north to the Borders in the south, will have special openings and events ranging from re-enactments to talks to inviting you to bring your own finds along for evaluation. Many events are listed at the Doors open Days web site, but this is a time when you are just as likely to see a notice on a signboard or hear about an event word of mouth, too – there’s lots of stuff going on.
Scotland is the location of six sites that UNESCO has named as world heritage sites.
These range in time and scope from the ancient stones and stories of the Neolithic Heart of Orkney to the far north, to right in Scotland’s central belt, the engineering marvel of the Forth Bridge in Edinburgh, which was constructed in the nineteenth century.
If you happen to be in the Falkirk council area, you’ll want to be aware of Big Roman Week. In 2018 this takes place from 15 to 23 September. In addition to folk dressed as Roman soldiers and their families and servants, you might take a walk along the Antonine Wall or hear a talk on the latest archaeological research.
Up in the Highlands, from late September to mid-October, more than one hundred events will take place as the Highland Archaeology Festival marks its twenty fifth year. The events will include workshops, walks, talks, and exhibits.
That’s just a taste of what you might expect to explore during Scottish Archaeology Month. The intent is, as the folk at Archaeology Scotland say, to, “remind us of the archaeology on our doorsteps.”
But what if you are not in Scotland when these events are going on? Are there ways to explore Scotland’s archaeology at other times of year?
What if you’d like to join in during Archaeology Month – but you won’t be in Scotland when it is going on? Are there thing you could do?
I’ve suggestions as to how you can participate if you are in these situations.
If you’d like to explore Scotland’s archaeology at other times of year:
Castles come to mind. There are well known ones such as Linlithgow and Eilean Donan, and lesser known ones too, such as Caerlaverock and Scalloway. Each has differing things to tell you and differing ways to go about that.
There are standing stones and stone circles. Kilmartin Glen in the west is a fine place to begin. The Ring of Brodgar in Orkney suggests a different story, and Clava Cairns near Inverness another one yet.
You can visit buildings which reflect highland life from the 1700s to the 1950s and often talk with historic interpreters at the Highland Folk Museum, which is near Newtonmore in the Cairngorms. The Highland Folk Museum also is home 12,000 historic objects, which they display on a rotating basis in their museum. They’ll be taking part in Archaeology Month, and they have events going on all year round, too.
Speaking of objects: Scotland’s museums, large and small, benefit from the scholarship –- and the work in the dirt —- of archaeologists The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow are two heavy hitters- —they each hold collections spanning many centuries – but there are other fine museums across the country which will welcome and inform you as well.
If you’d like to begin your explorations of the archaeology of Scotland and Scottish Archaeology Month while you are outwith Scotland, there are books, web sites, video programs, and music for you to explore
As to web sites, all of the places and events mentioned and/or linked above are excellent sites to explore.
As to books: Exhibiting Scotland is a fascinating and well written account of how the collections of The National Museum of Scotland came to be. Raises many good points about how we think about history and national identity, and how museum collections and exhibits reflect, shape, and are shaped by these choices, too.
Free online courses: Do you know about FutureLearn? They’ve a free short course on Hadrian’s Wall -– what life was like and how we know about that –- which might be of interest. There’s one on Robert Burns, too, and one on the history of royal fashion which, while not Scotland specific, is taught by Dr. Sally Tuckett of the University of Glasgow and taught me a lot about what may be learned from sorts of objects I’d not considered. I’ve taken all of these courses and recommend them.
As to music: You’ll not go wrong with any recording by Julie Fowlis, who connects Scotland’s past and present in her work. Take a listen to her album called Alterum.
We’ve articles about a number of sites of interest in our archive here at Perceptive Travel. During Scottish Archaeology Month look for more on what we’ve covered and how to find those stories.
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