chapter  5
15 Pages

What do we really know about transhumance in medieval Scotland?

WithPiers Dixon

Across Europe, transhumance is a common element of medieval settlement and land-use systems, generally dying out during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. The documentary record for the medieval period is often cryptic and opaque. For shielings this is usually limited to references in the context of listing rights to pasture and other resources. Winchester has shown that there are varying forms of place-name that refer to summer bothies or huts, depending on language on the one hand and on usage on the other. While the English and Gaelic names are common in many parts of Scotland, Scandinavian place-names for the practice are found in Dumfriesshire, revealing a phase of Norse settlement among the modern farm names, but these names are also known in the Norse areas of the far north. The first archaeological recording of the field remains of potential shieling huts was mostly carried out by the Ordnance Survey (OS) archaeological teams until their demise in the 1980s.