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  Scottish History Overview

(Links at the left provide access to key topics)

The archaeological history of what is now Scotland goes back 10,000 years to the time when the first people arrived. This happened as the last glaciers retreated and exposed a fresh uninhabited landscape - the eden that was to become Alba.

Early People - Picts and Britons - The early people had boats and farming methods that allowed stable colonies to be established all over Scotland. By 1000 BCE there were hill forts such as Eildon Hill protecting several hundred houses, and many Brochs and other kinds of fortified settlements. Later incomers were the Brythonic Celts (later called Britons) who spread over the areas south of the highlands, and there is evidence of continued struggle between the early (southern) Britons and the northern Picts.

The first written accounts are from the Romans, and from Pytheas the Greek Merchant (380 - 310 BCE). Pytheas was able to estimate the curcumference of Great britain to within 2.5% of modern estimates, all based on astral navigation methods. He sailed from Massalia (now Marseilles), and recorded the place as Prettanike, later Pretannia (Britannia), and the people as Priteni (meaning tattooed), and talks of a drink made of grain and honey. The Romans later called them Picts (the tattooed ones). The Picts held all of the lands north of the boundary of the Clyde and Tweed (the Highland line), while the Britons held the lands to the south. Britons and Picts were closely related celtic tribes, and the Picts spoke a Brythonic-celtic language.

The Scots - The Scots were a celtic tribe named the Scottii by the Romans. What they called themselves is not so clear. They arrived in both the West of Scotland and Ulster around 200-500 CE. Many writers claim this as an 'Irish' invasion. However, the archaeological evidence suggests that both North East Ireland and South West Scotland were invaded by this tribe of Celts from Iberia who created Dalriada (included the Westerm Isles).
The first area of Scots settlement (modern day Argyll - the seat of the Kings of Dalriada) has been shown by archaeologists to have been quite stable in this period and beyond - the map shows Dalriada around 600 CE in green. The yellow area on the map shows the Pictish kingdom, and the white area is the Brythonic celts (Britons).

Angles, Saxons and Vikings - From around 700 CE, the Angle and Saxon tribes, originating from what is now Northern Germany, moved into the south of Scotland and strengthened the hold of their Briton (Brythonic Celt) cousins. Later, around 700 CE, the nordic tribes (originating also from northern Germany) started to arrive from Denmark (Jutland - Jutes) and Norway. The north-east came under Norwegian control, with the Jarls of Norway (Earls) holding Orkney, Caithness, the Western Isles and other areas. The south-east saw Danish invasion (Jutes) along with further Saxon incursions.

Scotland - The Scots clans of modern times have their roots in these various peoples, all with Celtic and northern European roots in the most ancient times. All of them can be shown to have settled various kingdoms in Scotland, and to have laid the seed of the many clans which are still honoured to this day. By around 1000 CE, Alba had consolidated the southern lands to become a recognisable Scotland as it is now. Malcolm had pushed the border to the Tweed (in 1018), and it remains the border for now and for as long as Scotland continues.
The next 700 years saw a long series of battles with Norman and German monarchs from England, until the Union in 1707. This confirmed the Hanoverian (Germanic) succession which was eventually accepted by at least some lowland Scots as the benefits of modernisation started to appear. Acceptance by the majority was never quite complete, as evidenced by the Jacobite risings, and is now not such an issue as modern Scotland regains more and more control over its own destiny.

The links in the text and on the left address some of the key topics in further detail.