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. You can do that within Scotland, and online, all through the year, as well.
Here are ideas about ways to do that
–>Note that many events offer online/digital components as well as in person activities.
If you are in Scotland
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, 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. This is a time, though, when you are just as likely to see a notice on a signboard or hear about an event word of mouth, too.
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 to see what might be on this year. In the past, in addition to folk dressed as Roman soldiers and their families and servants, you might have taken a walk along the Antonine Wall or heard a talk on the latest archaeological research about the Romans in Scotland.
Up in the Highlands, from late September to mid-October, it is the time of the Highland Archaeology Festival. Events often include workshops, walks, talks, and exhibits, and nowadays look out especially for online offerings.
That’s just a taste of what you might expect 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? Or what if it is not the right time for you to travel around?
Are there ways to explore Scotland’s archaeology at other times of year?
Are there things you could do?
There are indeed, ways to learn about and enjoy Scotland’s archaeology outwith September, and from your home through online materials, broadcasts, and books, too.
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. Most have presences online. Put in the name of your favourite castle, or allow Visit Scotland’s Castle Trail or Historic Scotland’s castle information to guide you
There are standing stones and stone circles to explore.
You can visit buildings which reflect highland life from the 1700s to the 1950s and perhaps 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 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. The Hunterian Museum on the campus of the University of Glasgow is Scotland’s oldest public museum.
They each hold collections spanning many centuries. There are other fine museums across the country (and with online sites) 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, or if it not time for you to travel within the country 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 offer 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. It 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.
You may also wish to read David C. Weinczok’s book The History Behind Game of Thrones: The North Remembers . GOTT fan or no, you will come away with a deeper knowledge of the history and aracheology of Scotland.
Online courses: Do you know about FutureLearn? They’ve a no cost short course on Hadrian’s Wall -– what life was like and how we know about that –- which might be of interest (even though,yes, it’s all in England, the wall has long been seen as a historic dividing line between south and north) . There’s a course on Robert Burns at FutureLearn , 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 to do with archaeology in Scotland in our archive here at Perceptive Travel, too.
You’ll find articles in line with what Doctor Nicholas Card, who is working on prehistoric sites on Orkney, has to say: “Archaeologists aren’t searching for treasure. They are looking for stories.”
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