Tracing the Lines: Grooved Ware Catalogue

A key aim of the Tracing the Lines project has been the production of a catalogue of Scottish Grooved Ware and associated radiocarbon dates to complement recent work on the dating of the emergence of Grooved Ware in Orkney undertaken as part of the Times of Their Lives project (MacSween et al. 2015; Griffiths 2016; Richards et al. 2016; Card et al. 2017). As Tracing the Lines has focussed specifically on Grooved Ware beyond Orkney, Orcadian Grooved Ware is not included in the present catalogue. The articles in the bibliography below provide an overview of recent work on the dating of Orcadian Grooved Ware.

Download the Scottish Grooved Ware Catalogue

Notes and guidance for using the catalogue

Sites and Locales

Each site in the catalogue has been recorded separately, though a number of sites have been split into different finds locales when there was evidence that two depositional events were sufficiently discrete to suggest that they might represent the residues of entirely separate events (for example, deposition in non-adjacent pit clusters that may represent separate occupations, possibly of different dates). Though it is acknowledged that spatial or temporal separation does not in itself indicate unrelated activities, the decision to split a site into separate locales was made whenever it was considered that there was a possibility of conflating potentially unrelated activities. Conversely, when several depositional contexts are found in close proximity and contain material likely to derive from a single event, or events occurring over a short period of time (for example, the Balfarg timber circle), then these have been recorded as single locales.

Radiocarbon Dates

All radiocarbon dates presented here have been calibrated in OxCal 4.3 and may therefore differ from calibrated dates presented in the original excavation reports. Only dates relating to the possible age of the Grooved Ware pottery at each site, or to its time of deposition, have been included in the catalogue. Readers are referred to the original excavation reports for full details. To simplify comparisons between sites the dates have also been presented separately in four periods: Pre-3000 cal BC (very early Grooved Ware outside Orkney), 3000-2600 cal BC (earlier Grooved Ware), 2600-2450 cal BC (late Grooved Ware to the appearance of the earliest Beaker pottery), post-2450 cal BC (possible overlap with Beaker pottery). The break at 2600 cal BC is arbitrary and should not be taken to imply a significant change in Grooved Ware styles or related practices at this time. Dates have been divided into the categories ‘Most Reliable’, ‘Less Reliable’ and ‘Least Reliable’ on the basis of the relationships between the samples dated and the Grooved Ware sherds, the nature of the material dated, the standard error margin of the uncalibrated dates, and the stratigraphic integrity of the context from which the dated material came. It should be noted that while a sample may be considered ‘Least Reliable’ in respect of dating the Grooved Ware at a particular site this need not mean that the date is of poor quality or cannot be used to reliably date other activity at the same site.

Other Information

  • Only material from the contexts within which the Grooved Ware was found, or from very closely related contexts (e.g. separate fills of a single pit), has been included under the heading Closely associated artefacts and other materials
  • The column headed ‘Assemblage features’ presents a basic summary of formal and decorative characteristics of the Grooved Ware at each site/locale. Readers should refer to the primary references for more detailed information and illustrations.
  • ‘Notable related assemblages’ refers to selected assemblages that bear some relation to the Grooved Ware at each of the sites/locales discussed. This may be on the basis that they are from nearby sites, are of a similar style or date, or that they help to cast light on certain aspects of the pottery in question.
  • Full details of any in-text references can be found under ‘Primary references’ for the site to which they relate.

A catalogue such as this is always a work in progress, and the author (Mike Copper) would be grateful of any suggestions for additions to the database, which it is intended will be updated on a regular basis. Likewise, if any information is erroneous then users are requested to inform Mike who will update the records accordingly.

Mike Copper Email:


Card, N., Mainland, I., Timpany, S., Towers, R., Batt, C., Bronk Ramsey, C., Dunbar, E., Reimer, P., Bayliss, A., Marshall, P. and Whittle, A. (2017) To cut a long story short: formal chronological modelling for the Late Neolithic site of Ness of Brodgar, Orkney. European Journal of Archaeology, 1-47.

Griffiths, S. (2016) Beside the ocean of time: a chronology of Neolithic burial monuments and houses in Orkney. In Jones, R. and Richards, C. (editors) The development of Neolithic house societies in Orkney. Oxford: Oxbow. 254-302

MacSween, A., Hunter, J., Sheridan, J. A., Bond, J., Bronk Ramsey, C., Reimer, P., Bayliss, A., Griffiths, S. and Whittle, A. (2015) Refining the chronology of the Neolithic settlement at Pool, Sanday, Orkney: implications for the emergence and development of Grooved Ware. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 81, 283-310.

Richards, C., Meirion Jones, A., MacSween, A., Sheridan, J. A., Dunbar, E., Reimer, P., Bayliss, A., Griffiths, S. and Whittle, A. (2016) Settlement duration and materiality: formal chronological models for the development of Barnhouse, a Grooved Ware settlement in Orkney. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 82, 193-225.