Fieldwalking in Sutherland Day 13: The view across the sea from Tarbat Ness

Having now walked all of the available fields around Golspie, we thought that it would be helpful to view this landscape within its wider context. Our suggested interpretation of the extraordinary concentrations of artefacts at sites like Little Ferry and the Culbin Sands is that they were places which played a special role in both the movement of raw materials and the manufacture of artefacts in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. They were locations where boats were able to land and shelter from bad weather. In addition, they offered neutral locations upon islands or pebble bars where people from different areas could meet to exchange goods and craft artefacts. Only stone tools and pottery now survive, but it is likely that organics were equally important.

Looking north-east across the estuary of Loch Fleet towards the study area on the far side. This emphasised how sheltered this inland water is in comparison to the open North Sea. (Photo: Aaron Watson)

Across the Dornoch Firth is the peninsular of Tarbet Ness, and clear weather offered us a view of the sea lochs across which Neolithic and Bronze Age boats likely travelled.

The lighthouse at Tarbat Ness. (Photo: Aaron Watson)
Looking north from Tarbat Ness to the distinctive hills which frame Loch Fleet. Might these have offered landmarks for navigation? (Photo: Aaron Watson)
Looking south from Tarbat Ness towards the Culbin Sands on the southern shore of the Moray Firth. Again, it seems possible that distinctive landforms might have been used for navigation. In this case the snow-capped Cairngorms mountains are highly distinctive in clear weather. (Photo: Aaron Watson)

Many thanks to Pat Scott and Dorothy Low for help with the project, the local farmers for their support, and to the Coffee Bothy café in Golspie for their hospitality and hot drinks.

Further information:

The fieldwalking project at Loch Fleet is a collaboration between Richard Bradley, Aaron Watson, Ronnie Scott and Annette Jack. It is part of a wider investigation into the role of marine transportation in the Neolithic and Bronze Age of Britain and Ireland. The Sutherland project develops upon a survey focused upon the Culbin Sands, near Findhorn, in 2014. For more details please see:

Maritime Havens in Earlier Prehistoric Britain, by Richard Bradley, Alice Rogers, Fraser Sturt, Aaron Watson, Diana Coles, Julie Gardiner and Ronnie Scott. 2016. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 82, 1-35.
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The Earlier Prehistoric Collections from the Culbin Sands, Northern Scotland: the Construction of a Narrative, by Richard Bradley, Aaron Watson and Ronnie Scott. 2016. In Ancient Lives: Object, people and place in early Scotland. Essays for David V Clarke on his 70th birthday, edited by Fraser Hunter and Alison Sheridan. Leiden: Sidestone Press, 233-43.
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