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Ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant: the Romans in Scotland, a Palaeoenvironmental Contribution

  • Graeme Whittington (a1) and Kevin J. Edwards (a2)


Interst in the Roman incursions into Scotland has a long history and, despite the numerous works that have appeared on the subject, there is still no diminution in the appearance of new writings. Of considerable interest is the recent appearance of a paper by Hanson and Breeze which undertakes a critique of existing studies of Roman Scotland and the nature of the data on which they depend, while also suggesting lines along which future enquiry might proceed. Several statements made by them are pertinent to the findings to be reported here. The first of these is that, ‘the relationship between the occupying Roman forces and the indigenous population is relatively poorly understood’. A second is that, ‘the pax Romana has frequently been cited as the occasion for changes in settlement patterns in north Britain’. The third, relating to the impact of the Roman arrival on agriculture and the environment, is that ‘…the pattern which is beginning to emerge suggests that the effect of the Roman army's presence was minimal’.



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1 e.g. G.S. Maxwell, The Romans in Scotland (1989).

2 W.S. Hanson and D.J. Breeze, ‘The future of Roman Scotland’, in W.S. Hanson and E.A. Slater (eds), Scottish Archaeology: New Perceptions (1991).

3 Hanson and Breeze, op. cit. (note 2), 65.

4 ibid., 66.

5 ibid., 66.

6 ibid., 72.

7 G. Whittington and K.J. Edwards, ‘Palynology as a predictive tool in archaeology' (forthcoming).

8 Turner, J., ‘The environment of north-east England during Roman times as shown by pollen analysis’, Journ. Arch. Sci. vi (1979), 285–90; Boyd, W.E., ‘Palaeobotanical evidence from Mollins’, Britannia xv (1985), 3748; Edwards, K.J. and MacDonald, G.M., ‘Holocene palynology: II. Human influence and vegetation change’, Prog. Physical Geog. xv (1991), 364–91.

9 M. van der Veen, Crop Husbandry Regimes. An Archaeobotanical Study of Farming in Northern England (1992), 153.

10 Stuiver, M. and Becker, B., ‘High-precision decadal calibration of the radiocarbon time scale, AD 1950–2500 BC’, Radiocarbon xxviii (1986), 863910.

11 Hanson and Breeze, op. cit. (note 2), 66.

12 Close-Brooks, J., ‘Excavations at Clatchard Craig, Fife’, PSAS cxvi (1986), 117–84.

13 Whittington, G., Edwards, K.J. and Cundill, P.R., ‘Late- and post-glacial vegetational change at Black Loch, Fife, eastern Scotland – a multiple core approach’. New Phytol. cxviii (1991), 147–66.

14 The common name equivalents of those pollen taxa mentioned in the text and on the pollen diagrams are given in the appendix.

15 The Coryloid pollen curve may include both hazel and bog myrtle (Myrica gale). Their pollen is similar and their separate identification is unreliable. See Edwards, K.J., ‘The separation of Corylus and Myrica pollen in modern and fossil samples’, Pollen et Spores xxiii (1981), 205–18.

16 K.J. Edwards, ‘Aspects of the prehistoric archaeology of the Howe of Cromar’, in A.M.D. Gemmell (ed.), Quaternary Studies in North East Scotland (1975), 82–7; Edwards, K.J., Palaeoenvironmental and Archaeological Investigations in the Howe of Cromar, Grampian Region, Scotland, Unpub. Ph.D. thesis, University of Aberdeen (1978).

17 Hanson and Breeze, op. cit. (note 2), fig. 4.2.

18 Edwards, K.J., ‘Environmental impact in the prehistoric period’, Scot. Arch. Forum ix (1979), 2742; K.J. Edwards and K.M. Rowntree, ‘Radiocarbon and palaeoenvironmental evidence for changing rates of erosion at a Flandrian stage site in Scotland’, in R.A. Cullingford, D.A. Davidson and J. Lewin (eds), Timescales in Geomorphology (1980), 207–23.

19 Reed, N., ‘The Scottish campaigns of Septimius Severus’, PSAS cvii (19751976), 92102; Hanson, W.S., ‘Roman campaigns north of the Forth-Clyde isthmus; the evidence of the temporary camps’, PSAS cix (19771978), 140–50; W.S. Hanson and G.S. Maxwell, Rome's North West Frontier (1983); W.S. Hanson, Agricola and the Conquest of the North (1987); Hanson and Breeze, op. cit. (note 2).

20 Hanson, op. cit. (note 19, 1987).

21 Hanson and Maxwell, op. cit. (note 19).

22 Hanson, W.S., ‘The first Roman occupation of Scotland’, in Hanson, W.S. and Keppie, L.J.F. (eds), Roman Frontier Studies XII, BAR S71 (1980), 1543.

23 J.G. Michie, Loch Kinnord its History and Antiquities (1910).

24 Joseph, J.K. St, ‘The camp at Durno, Aberdeenshire, and the site of Mons Graupius’, Britannia ix (1978), 271–87; but see Hanson, op. cit. (note 22).

25 Hanson and Maxwell, op. cit. (note 19), 29.

26 Reed, op. cit. (note 19).

27 J.D. Leach and J.J. Wilkes, ‘The Roman military base at Carpow, Perthshire, Scotland: Summary of recent investigations (1964–70, 1975)’, in J. Fitz (ed.), Limes: Akten des XI International Limeskongresses (1977), 47–62; Reed, op. cit. (note 19).

28 Reed, op. cit. (note 19).

29 Maxwell, op. cit. (note 1), 126.

30 For a discussion of the Maeatae see Maxwell, G.S., ‘Casus belli: native pressures and Roman policy’, Scot. Arch. Forum vii (1975), 3149.

31 Hanson, op. cit. (note 22).

32 Zeist, W. van, ‘A palaeobotanical study of some bogs in western Brittany (Finistére), France’, Palaeohistoria x (1964), 157–80; Geel, B. van, ‘Palynology of a section from the raised peat bog “Weitmarscher Moor”, with special reference to fungal remains’, Acta Botanica Neerlandica xxi (1972), 261–84; U. Willerding, ‘Botanische Beiträge zur Kenntnis von Vegetation und Ackerbau im Mittelalter’, in J. Jankuhn and R. Wenskus (eds), Geschichtswissenschaft und Archäologie (1979), 271–353.

33 Waateringe, W. Groenman-van, ‘The disastrous effect of the Roman occupation’, in Brandt, R. and Slofstra, J. (eds), Roman and Native in the Low Countries, BAR S184 (1983), 147–57.

34 Waateringe, W. Groenman-van, ‘Urbanization and the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire’, in Hanson, W.S. and Keppie, L.J.F. (eds), Roman Frontier Studies XII, BAR S71 (1980), 1037–44; Groenman-van Waateringe, op. cit. (note 33), following O. Lattimore, Studies in Frontier History: Collected Papers 1928–1958 (1962).

35 cf. Manning, W.H., ‘Economic influences on land use in the military areas of the Highland zone during the Roman period’, in Evans, J.G., Limbrey, S. and Cleere, H. (eds), The Effect of Man on the Landscape of the Highland Zone, CBA Res. Rep. xi (1975), 112–16.

36 Tacitus, , Agricola xxx. 5 (from Calgacus' speech before Mons Graupius).

37 Hanson and Breeze, op. cit. (note 2).

38 Hanson and Maxwell, op. cit. (note 19).

39 Manning, op. cit. (note 35).

40 van der Veen, op. cit. (note 9).

41 Hanson and Breeze, op. cit. (note 2), 71.

42 Boyd, W.E., ‘Environmental change and Iron Age land management in the area of the Antonine Wall, central Scotland: a summary’, Glasgow Arch. Journ. xi (1984), 75–8; L. Dumayne, ‘Invasion or native? – Vegetation clearance in northern Britain during Romano-British times’, Abstracts: 8th International Palynological Congress (1992), 39.

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Ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant: the Romans in Scotland, a Palaeoenvironmental Contribution

  • Graeme Whittington (a1) and Kevin J. Edwards (a2)


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