Remains of a Pictish home.
Careful scrutiny of the very tussocky ground on this site still reveals the outline of a Pictish Longhouse called a Pitcarmick House.
Archaeologists surveying North East Perthshire in the 1980’s identified a series of buildings previously unseen anywhere else in Scotland. Named ‘Pitcarmick’ buildings after the estate in Strathardle where they were first discovered, these unusual buildings appear as low earth banks, and have an elongated rectangular form between 5m and 30m in length with slightly curved side walls and rounded gable ends.
Radiocarbon dating show that Pitcarmick-type longhouses were built in the Early Historic or Pictish period c600-900AD.
Excavated examples from the groups at Pitcarmick in Strathardle and Lair in Glenshee have revealed that the buildings functioned as byre-houses and were primarily constructed of turf and earth, sometimes with a stone foundation.
In these byre-houses, people would have lived in one end whilst cattle were over-wintered in the other. A gently sloping floor allowed animal waste to flow away from the living quarters whilst a hearth provided heat and light. Radiocarbon dating has shown that the Pitcarmick-type longhouses were built in the Early Historic, or Pictish, period (c.600-900 AD).
The presence of small enclosures, additional buildings and cord-rig cultivation remains near to the longhouse settlements suggests that the Pictish dwellers were practicing mixed farming. Environmental samples taken from a peat fen at Lair have shown that the land was heavily grazed and cereal crops such as barley, oats and rye were being grown. Cattle bones excavated from a pit at Lair offer evidence of butchery, suggesting that animals were being reared for meat as well as dairy products. The discovery of decorated stone objects, iron artefacts and metalworking waste paints a picture of a sophisticated and self-sufficient people living in the uplands of North East Perthshire between 1,100 and 1,400 years ago.
Climate in the middle prehistoric period was better than today – both warmer and drier. So areas that we consider unviable now were fertile, productive, good places to live and cultivate in the Bronze Age and early Iron Age. Around 3,000 years ago the climate deteriorated becoming colder and wetter. Cultivation of higher altitude land became less sustainable and people began to move into lower lying areas.