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Ancient Scotland

Long, long ago a small part of the continent Laurentia broke away to travel the seas to a new home. The part that escaped became what we now call Scotland. The part that was left formed much of North America.

The marriage of Scotland and England, the merging of land masses from two continental plates, was not easy. For years beyond counting land formed and reformed, volcanic eruptions creating Scottish islands and mountain ranges.

With Scotland and England joined, in a time before the nations had their own names, England became habitable whilst Scotland was covered in ice. Scotlandís ice melted to reveal a vast, inhospitable land peopled by high mountain ranges, acres of forest and deep inland waters.

The people of Scotland were not bred to the land but came to it - as adventurers, as voyagers, as families searching for a new and better life. Those who braved the far northern lands came initially in small numbers, living off the land, moving with the seasons.

The first Scottish settlement that has left evidence of ancient man is Cramond near Edinburgh, where relics from around 8500 BC have been found. Spoils of excavation include stone tools and hazelnut shells. It is believed that Cramond housed a campsite rather than permanent dwellings, allowing its people the freedom to move on to new and richer lands.

Hazelnut shells, carbon dated to c7500 BC, were found on the Isle of Rum in the mid-1980s. There is evidence of a basic living structure consisting of poles and animal skins that could have been used for storage and as a living area. The islands of Colonsay, Islay, Jura and Skye have between them yielded evidence of habitation between 7000 and 6000 BC.

Stone dwellings, with settled societies, appeared thousands of years later. Skara Brae in Orkney has a settlement of ruined houses thought to have been used for several hundred years between 3500 and 2500 BC. Each house, built of stone slabs, has a hearth, a dresser and beds; the houses are linked by covered passages. The site, arguably the best preserved Neolithic village in Europe from this time period, was discovered in 1850 when storms tore away tightly packed earth that had protected the houses.

Stone circles were raised between 2900 and 2000 BC, including the Callanish Stones on Lewis and the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney Ė huge architectural achievements whose creation would have needed vision, inspiration and planning.

Scotlandís early history resides in its land - written records started when the Romans invaded. Scotlandís early people shared a large and rich land, and they honoured the space they had been given with monuments that have withstood the test of time.

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