The location of sites with pits containing Neolithic material found in Scotland 1990-2008 (illustration prepared by Lorraine McEwan, source Brophy, K & Noble, G 2011)
Despite the identification of many hundreds of burial and ceremonial monuments dating to the Neolithic period, the information currently known that is related to Neolithic people and their everyday life remains remarkably sketchy. However, over the past twenty years large strides towards a better understanding of, for instance, where people were living, and what their diet was, have been made. Contributing to our better understanding are factors as diverse as developer-funded excavations and improved (and new) scientific analyses. New discoveries and archive material (from potsherds to human remains) from legacy excavations have shed light on various aspects of being Neolithic and key discoveries and techniques will be outlined in this section. The wider environmental context is of fundamental importance here, allowing an understanding of the conditions within which people lived in the Neolithic; the climate and environment impacted on daily life (in the form of weather and vegetation) but also on where people could live and move, what resources they could rely upon and also what domesticates could be supported. It should also be noted that a recurrent theme in this section is the acknowledgement that everyday life in the Neolithic was not necessarily ‘mundane’. Ritual and routine seem to have been entangled in the domestic sphere, to the extent that everything from the layout of houses to the foodstuffs consumed could be viewed as evidence for the beliefs, ideology or cosmology of people in the Neolithic. (Some of these themes will be returned to in Theme 6.)
This theme considers aspects of the way in which people lived their lives during the Neolithic period in Scotland, starting with a consideration of the foods they ate and evidence for their diet as left in their bones, and moving on to consider the structures in which they lived and ending with a consideration of the environment (including climate) in which they would have lived.