Out of the Round
: A Palaeoecological Investigation into Human-Environmental Interactions of Bronze and Iron Age Hut Circle Communities in Gairloch, Wester Ross

  • Hannah Genders Boyd

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Research (awarded by UHI)


This study combines the survey and excavation data from community archaeology project WeDigs with palaeoecological research, in order to investigate the relationship that prehistoric hut circle (roundhouse) communities had with their local environment. The research is based on a series of hut circles in the Achtercairn area of Gairloch, Wester Ross, Scotland. Radiocarbon dates were recovered from three of these hut circles which indicated usage from the Early Bronze Age to Late Iron Age and this study therefore focussed on landscape change in this period. The study used palynological, non-pollen palynomorph (NPP) and microscopic charcoal analysis to investigate evidence for cereal crops, burning events, and changes in vegetational communities over time. The project directly links to research questions posited in the Bronze Age and Iron Age panels of the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework, investigating themes such as woodland exploitation, patterns in settlement activity, resource use and social response to climate change (ScARF 2012a, 2012b). The results found evidence for a continuity of settlement in this landscape during the study period, with no evidence of total abandonment at any time. There was evidence indicative of environmental downturn at the end of the Bronze Age, and the palaeoecological record suggests that the communities responded to this by adapting their subsistence strategies, shifting from arable agriculture to focus on pastoral farming during this wetter period. There was no indication of major episodes of woodland clearance took place, with a strong sense of continuity in the vegetation in the landscape throughout the period, which may indicate sustainable management of woodland resources over time. The study indicates that using palaeoecological investigation in combination with the archaeological record is an effective approach for deepening our understanding of hut circle communities in Bronze and Iron Age Scotland.
Date of Award18 Oct 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of the Highlands and Islands
SupervisorScott Timpany (Supervisor)

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