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A History of Scotland Look Behind the Mist and Myth of by Neil Oliver

By Neil Oliver

Scotland's heritage will get a rewrite by means of archaeologist and historian Neil Oliver. How exact are the bills of Mary Queen of Scots's tragic death or Bonnie Prince Charlie's forlorn reason? Oliver unearths a Scotland that cast its personal identification with good fortune, regardless of its union with England in 1707.

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There was seldom rain any more - especially on the high ground - just snow that grew deeper and deeper until its own weight compacted the lower layers into ice. Huge domes of snow and ice formed and grew within the mountain ranges of the north, rising and enveloping the tallest peaks. As the ice sheet spread, a vicious cycle was established. More and more of the northern hemisphere turned white and reflected the heat radiating from the sun, accelerating the cooling process. Less and less water fell upon the land as the ice claimed and drew towards itself whatever precipitation was forming in the atmosphere.

My first ‘dig’ was at Loch Doon, near the village of Dalmellington, in Ayrshire. It was directed by a dear man called Tom Affleck who had made a second career for himself, relatively late in life, out of his lifelong fascination with archaeology. Tom’s first degree, completed just after World War II, had been in botany and for years he had been a market gardener. But, happily for many of us, he went back to university in the 1970s to pursue his second academic love. By the time I met him, in the mid 1980s, he was working towards his doctorate in the subject.

Were they the victims of a tragedy that devastated a community, taking several of its members at once; or had they died singly, over a long time? Was there a battle, a murderous raid by rivals, an outbreak of disease? And what of the mother and baby placed in the ground with so much care and imagination? Was the bird’s wing there just for comfort’s sake, a lining placed in the grave by someone left behind who couldn’t bear the thought of his baby being cold? Or is it about a tiny soul taking flight, following the flocks of migratory birds towards a warmer place half remembered and far away?

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