Constructing Lordship in North Atlantic Europe: the archaeology of masonry mortars in the medieval and later buildings of the Scottish North Atlantic


Thacker M (2017) Constructing Lordship in North Atlantic Europe: the archaeology of masonry mortars in the medieval and later buildings of the Scottish North Atlantic. Doctor of Philosophy. University of Edinburgh.

This thesis investigates the archaeological potential of masonry mortars throughout North Atlantic Europe, with a particular focus on the buildings and environments of medieval northern and western Scotland. The results of an extensive non-intrusive survey of medieval and later buildings are presented, within which nine multiphase sites were subject to more comprehensive building, environment and materials analysis. The survey suggests that, in general, different mortar-making techniques had well-defined sub-regional distributions which are not simply a correlate of environmental availability, but developed in different ways over time. Moreover, all of the more comprehensively studied buildings contain evidence of striking material contrasts from phases to phase which has great potential in standing building analysis. Material contrasts in masonry evidence between building phases, between neighbouring buildings, between specific buildings and the regional corpus, and between the regions themselves, are then considered as evidence of changing cultural, chronological and environmental context. The relationship between secular and ecclesiastical buildings across the region is a particular concern. Qualitative lab-based and on-site material interpretations made throughout the thesis are supported by a programme of comparative experimentation. This thesis includes the first comprehensive investigation of lime mortars made from marine shells, the first evidence of lime mortars made from coralline algae, results from the first programme of dating medieval buildings in Scotland through radiocarbon analysis of relict mortar fuel, and microstructural analysis of a large range of medieval mortars from Norway to the Isle of Man. Wider research considers the initial emergence of mortared masonry in North Atlantic Europe and the relationship between clay and lime mortars. Ultimately, by placing the upstanding buildings archaeology at the centre of the medieval and later landscape this thesis will demonstrate that masonry mortars have significant potential to inform our understanding of the cultural and environmental context of lordship construction in the North Atlantic, providing a new focus for further interdisciplinary discourse.

medieval buildings; lime mortar; Northern Scotland; medieval mortar; North Atlantic Europe

Thesis can be found at: EThOS:

SupervisorsBoardman, Steve; Bromiley, Geoffrey
InstitutionUniversity of Edinburgh
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Qualification levelDoctoral
Publication date31/12/2017