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From points to pattern, and pattern to population: long term settlement patterns and demography in East Lothian, Scotland

David Cowley (UGent)
(2021)
Author
Promoter
(UGent) , Wim De Clercq and (UGent)
Organization
Abstract
This thesis makes a contribution to understanding the demography of south-east Scotland over the long-term. The potential numbers of inhabitants, their disposition across the landscape, and patterns of change over time are all important aspects of past societies but have legitimately been described as usually wholly unquantified. In the study area of some 673 km2, roughly coterminous with the County of East Lothian, the ‘population problem’ is approached through two case studies, one dealing with the Late Iron Age, the other with the mid-18th century AD. These case studies reflect the availability of reasonably reliable evidence, and are framed by periods during which the evidence base is poor or non-existent. Throughout a source critical approach is taken, foregrounding questions of how well the observable patterns in the available data represent the past rather than being a product of bias in the data. The first case study focuses on the Late Iron Age, centred on about 100 BC when the evidence-base is most reliable. The evidence for site distributions is used to define settlement and non-settlement zones, which provide a framework for considering the characteristics and patterns of inhabitation in a landscape framework. This is informed by excavated evidence which identifies a persistent pattern of intermittent occupation and reoccupation of settlements in an inherently mobile framework. The assessment of likely numbers of inhabitants is built around scenarios that express different parameters, such as ranges for the number of occupants of a building, or the number of contemporaneously occupied structures. Multiple scenarios are used as an explicit device to capture the range of possibilities that the often ambiguous evidence may allow for. The pattern of occupation to emerge from this analysis is of inhabitation clustered into selected areas, expressing a zoning of the landscape that appears to have its origins in the Neolithic. The 18th century case study is based on a comparison of a census published in 1755 and a map made in the 1750s. This is a novel approach that subjects these two independent sources to critical review, establishing that they have a surprisingly good correlation and are both broadly reliable. On this basis the 1750s map is used to place the census returns in a spatial framework, allowing the disposition of the population across the area to be mapped. This demonstrates that aspects of the zoning in the prehistoric landscape are still evident in the 18th century, blurred and modified certainly, but still identifiable in broad outline. The identification of long-lived zoning of the landscape is a reflection of the enduring relationships between people, places and space, expressing the spatial framework within which the population, over the long-term, lived their lives. The modelling of the Late Iron Age population suggests that numbers of inhabitants may have approached those of the mid-18th century AD, and that the intervening period was characterised by very low growth rates. High population growth rates are likely to have occurred in the period from about 500/400 BC, with growth rates during the 1st millennium AD and the Medieval period much less significant. In this context population growth is not identified as a prime mover for culture change in much of the period under consideration. It is, however, identified as a contributing factor in periods such as the mid 1st millennium BC where changes in agricultural practice, for example, drive an iterative process in which innovations are adopted and embedded in societies, and may be reinforced by population growth. This study has made clear the importance of a landscape framework for demographic research, providing a context within which diachronic comparisons can be made and patterns
Keywords
Population, Demography, Iron Age, Post-medieval, Scotland

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Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

MLA
Cowley, David. From Points to Pattern, and Pattern to Population: Long Term Settlement Patterns and Demography in East Lothian, Scotland. 2021.
APA
Cowley, D. (2021). From points to pattern, and pattern to population: long term settlement patterns and demography in East Lothian, Scotland.
Chicago author-date
Cowley, David. 2021. “From Points to Pattern, and Pattern to Population: Long Term Settlement Patterns and Demography in East Lothian, Scotland.”
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Cowley, David. 2021. “From Points to Pattern, and Pattern to Population: Long Term Settlement Patterns and Demography in East Lothian, Scotland.”
Vancouver
1.
Cowley D. From points to pattern, and pattern to population: long term settlement patterns and demography in East Lothian, Scotland. 2021.
IEEE
[1]
D. Cowley, “From points to pattern, and pattern to population: long term settlement patterns and demography in East Lothian, Scotland,” 2021.
@phdthesis{8720376,
  abstract     = {{This thesis makes a contribution to understanding the demography of south-east Scotland over the long-term. The potential numbers of inhabitants, their disposition across the landscape, and patterns of change over time are all important aspects of past societies but have legitimately been described as usually wholly unquantified. In the study area of some 673 km2, roughly coterminous with the County of East Lothian, the ‘population problem’ is approached through two case studies, one dealing with the Late Iron Age, the other with the mid-18th century AD. These case studies reflect the availability of reasonably reliable evidence, and are framed by periods during which the evidence base is poor or non-existent. Throughout a source critical approach is taken, foregrounding questions of how well the observable patterns in the available data represent the past rather than being a product of bias in the data.
The first case study focuses on the Late Iron Age, centred on about 100 BC when the evidence-base is most reliable. The evidence for site distributions is used to define settlement and non-settlement zones, which provide a framework for considering the characteristics and patterns of inhabitation in a landscape framework. This is informed by excavated evidence which identifies a persistent pattern of intermittent occupation and reoccupation of settlements in an inherently mobile framework. The assessment of likely numbers of inhabitants is built around scenarios that express different parameters, such as ranges for the number of occupants of a building, or the number of contemporaneously occupied structures. Multiple scenarios are used as an explicit device to capture the range of possibilities that the often ambiguous evidence may allow for. The pattern of occupation to emerge from this analysis is of inhabitation clustered into selected areas, expressing a zoning of the landscape that appears to have its origins in the Neolithic.
The 18th century case study is based on a comparison of a census published in 1755 and a map made in the 1750s. This is a novel approach that subjects these two independent sources to critical review, establishing that they have a surprisingly good correlation and are both broadly reliable. On this basis the 1750s map is used to place the census returns in a spatial framework, allowing the disposition of the population across the area to be mapped. This demonstrates that aspects of the zoning in the prehistoric landscape are still evident in the 18th century, blurred and modified certainly, but still identifiable in broad outline.
The identification of long-lived zoning of the landscape is a reflection of the enduring relationships between people, places and space, expressing the spatial framework within which the population, over the long-term, lived their lives. The modelling of the Late Iron Age population suggests that numbers of inhabitants may have approached those of the mid-18th century AD, and that the intervening period was characterised by very low growth rates. High population growth rates are likely to have occurred in the period from about 500/400 BC, with growth rates during the 1st millennium AD and the Medieval period much less significant. In this context population growth is not identified as a prime mover for culture change in much of the period under consideration. It is, however, identified as a contributing factor in periods such as the mid 1st millennium BC where changes in agricultural practice, for example, drive an iterative process in which innovations are adopted and embedded in societies, and may be reinforced by population growth.
This study has made clear the importance of a landscape framework for demographic research, providing a context within which diachronic comparisons can be made and patterns}},
  author       = {{Cowley, David}},
  keywords     = {{Population,Demography,Iron Age,Post-medieval,Scotland}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  pages        = {{250}},
  school       = {{Ghent University}},
  title        = {{From points to pattern, and pattern to population: long term settlement patterns and demography in East Lothian, Scotland}},
  year         = {{2021}},
}