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Nemo me impune lacessit *
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Scotland has been inhabited since at least the Mesolithic period; about nine thousand years. These first Scots were hunter gathers who left behind little to show for their passage but stone weapons and tools. In the Neolithic period, people lived in a village in Orkney which we know today as Skara Brae. Here, long hidden and protected was buried a warren of remarkable stone buildings. The village numbers half a dozen houses and some additional buildings. Some of the houses even have under-floor drains for indoor sanitation. Built around 3100 BCE, the village predates the Great Pyramid of Egypt and, by more than a thousand years, Stonehenge. Skara Brae is certainly the most remarkable remains of prehistoric life in Scotland and has contributed much to our knowledge but that knowledge remains incomplete. Who were these people who lived there? What, if any. relationship did they have with later inhabitants?                                                                                            Around 2000 BCE the first evidence of the                                                                                            Bronze Age appears in Scotland. At this                                                                                            time we see the first evidence of raiding                                                                                            with the building of brochs and crannogs.                                                                                            Brochs, unique to Scotland, are tall round                                                                                            towers with tapering, double-skinned dry                                                                                            stone walls. Between the double walls were                                                                                            stairs leading to separate stories. With                                                                                            only a single doorway and no windows they                                                                                            were almost impregnable. There are the                                                                                            remains of about five hundred of these                                                                                            brochs in Scotland , mainly in the north                                                                                            and west. Crannogs are buildings built on artificial or modified islands on the lochs of Scotland. There were eighteen of these on Loch Tay alone. Like Brochs they were obviously built for defense painting a picture of uncertain times yet are evidence of a high degree of social order and organization. Carbon dating acually suggests that crannogs could well pre- date the bronze age. The picture to the right is of a replica built on Loch Tay. Apart from some meager records of trading voyages, few written accounts exist before the Romans came to Britain. Despite the relative ease with which they conquered the southern part of Britain, their inroads into Scotland were few and short-lived. The Roman defeat of the Picts, as they named them, at Mons Graupius tells us something of the Caledonians. That they could raise an army, by Roman reports, of thirty thousand proves that they had some centralized organization. That despite that loss they continued to discourage Roman incursion, allows us to assume that their warlike, independent nature was unsubdued. For four centuries then the Picts along with the northern British Tribes, the Damnonii, Novantae, Selgovae and Votadini remained largely free of Roman influence. The building of the Antonine and Hadrian walls is proof, if it were required, of the propensity to raiding that threatened the Pax Romana. Meanwhile, in Ireland, the Scotii, along with the other Celtic tribes of that second unconquered part of the British Isles, looked with avarice at the rich pickings to be found amongst their ‘civilized’ neighbours. As Rome’s power dwindled and legions were recalled to the heart of their empire, the restlessness of the peoples beyond their borders grew. In 367, the great ‘Barbarian Conspiracy’ saw a simultaneous assault on Roman Britain. From the north, the Picts and Northern Britons broke through Hadrian’s Wall, the Scots swept in across the Irish Sea and Angles and Saxons overwhelmed the southern and eastern coastal forts. Although the defenses were patched up, the writing was on the wall and by 410 the last Roman army left. For the next few hundred years, it was the four peoples of the ‘Barbarian Conspiracy’ who were to vie for ascendancy in Scotland. To Return to the Main Scotland Page  To Return to my Home Page