Scotland, Prehistory, chloroform and cave sites: A legacy of thought
Type de publication:Conference Paper
Résumé (en anglais):
The idea that caves held significance in later prehistoric and early medieval landscapes has long been mooted, and, in the case of northern Britain, has been driven by the dedicated interests of key figures in the history of archaeology, such as Sir Daniel Wilson and Sir James Young Simpson. These two men were multi-faceted scholars of great significance. In his seminal 1851 publication Archæology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, Wilson coined 'Prehistory' and brought important ideas from Scandinavian scholarship to Britain and later to Canada. Simpson, in turn, is most widely known for his discovery and advocacy of how to successfully apply chloroform; however, he was also a leader for Scotland's archaeological community, bringing a wealth of wide-ranging knowledge and fresh perspectives to the field. Following on from Wilson and Simpson, a century and a half of research in Scotland identified cave sites as an aspect of early medieval settlement, and relates these places to the flowering of Gaelic monasticism. Nonetheless, there is a wider context for these sites and the fundamental similarities between early Christian communities across Britain and Ireland are at odds with this northern distribution. By considering the origins of our ideas for early medieval Britain, this paper targets the question of whether our perception of cave use may be skewed by the long history of Scottish interest in the topic. Given his prominence and long career at the University of Toronto, an unresolved question is to what extent Wilson's ideas affected his perception of cave sites in Canada.