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Houses and Households of the Eastern Picts: Geoarchaeological Approaches to the Interpretation of Social Space

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  • Full or part time
    Dr K Milek
    Dr G Noble
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

While archaeological research on the Pictish Period has concentrated on forts, enclosed sites, and other power centres, there remains a tremendous gap in our understanding of daily life among the Pictish peoples of Scotland (c. 300-900 AD) due to the dearth of archaeological investigation into their farmsteads and houses. This is especially true of highland and eastern Scotland, where very few farmsteads dating to the 1st millennium AD have so far been investigated. Ironically, this is the very region which contains the highest concentration of Pictish symbol-incised stones and cross-slabs, and is thought to be the Pictish heartland (Woolf 2007; Foster 2014).

Recent excavations of a number Pictish Period settlement sites in the eastern highlands and northeast coastal zone now present a new opportunity to investigate daily life in this region in the 1st millennium AD. Using a range of geoarchaeological methods, including soil micromorphology, chemistry, and magnetic susceptibility, this project will analyse the occupation deposits within Pictish Period buildings excavated at the sites of Garbeg (near Loch Ness, recently excavated by the University of Aberdeen), Lair (Glen Shee, currently under excavation by the Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust and Northlight Heritage; Glenshee Archaeology Project 2016), Pitcarmick (Strathardle; Carver et al. 2012; Carver et al. 2013), and Clarkly Hill (near Elgin, Moray; Hunter 2012).

While some of the samples to be used for this project have already been collected, the student will also be expected to participate in ongoing excavations at Lair, and to re-excavate old excavation trenches at Pitcarmick in order to take new samples. Practical training in archaeological field methods, geoarchaeological research design, sampling methods, and laboratory-based analytical methods will be provided.

Essential Background: Equivalent of 2.1 Honours Degree - BA, BSc, or Scottish MA in Archaeology

Knowledge of: Archaeological method and theory. It would be especially beneficial to have prior knowledge and experience of archaeological field methods and geoarchaeological methods.

British prehistory, especially Scottish archaeology of the Pictish Period.

Funding Notes

The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for Tuition fees, living expenses and maintenance. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting There is NO funding attached to this project. You can find details of living costs and the like by visiting


Carver, M., Barrett, J., Downes, J. and Hooper, J. (2012) Pictish byre-houses at Pitcarmick and their landscape: investigations 1993-5. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 142: 145-199.

Carver, M., Downes, J. and Barrett, J. (2013) Pitcarmick Excavations 1993-5. York: Archaeology Data Service. (collection doi: 10.5284/1021677)

Foster, S.M. (2014) Picts, Gaels and Scots: Early Historic Scotland. Edinburgh: Birlinn Ltd.

Glenshee Archaeology Project (2016) Glenshee Archaeology Project: Exploring the Archaeology and History of the Fairy Glen.

Hunter, F. (2012) Clarkly Hill.

Woolf, A. (2007) From Pictland to Alba: 789-1070. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Archaeology.

Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for PhD in Archaeology, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct College for processing. Please ensure that you quote the project title and supervisor on the application form.

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr K Milek ([email protected]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Graduate School Admissions Unit ([email protected]).

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