Thursday, 13 October 2016

Pre-historic decisions!

It's Thursday and one of my Grand child minding days. It's also a school holiday so I'll need to be thinking what to do to entertain when both have wakened up.

Yesterday, I managed to progress with my WIP and even made a major decision for me as an author. When pre-history leaves no written details, I feel that deduction is entirely down to me when it comes to writing new scenes in my manuscript. I want the detail to be as historically accurate as I can but, at times, this isn't possible. There are no written records to guide me.

I've pondered all sorts of things about what it was like to live in my part of the world, north-east Scotland, around 2000 years ago. One of my recent decisions is what made ancient tribes who inhabited the area decide on where a territorial border should be. It's not ground breaking thinking but it really does seem to me that a natural feature would be used as a barrier, whenever possible.

What do I know of the tribes of the north east of Scotland?

As far as I've researched, it's down to a map that #Ptolemy made somewhere around AD 120-150. We have no firm birth or death dates for Claudius Ptolemaeus but they are roughly AD 85 -AD 165, so we have to guess at when he might have been at his most prolific regarding the information he put on his maps. Even the earliest date of perhaps AD 120 is some 36 years after the time that I'm writing about, but it seems reasonable, to me, to surmise that tribal territories remained fairly similar for a long time and were possibly the same at AD 80 as they were in AD 120. Other problems with Ptolemy's maps are that his data is as hotly disputed as it is applauded. He most likely had inferior information to work with in the first instance so the tribal areas as defined by him on what is an askew version of the British Isles, is also in dispute.

However, understanding the limitations of Ptolemy's rough tribal borders, I still chose to use a natural barrier in the River Deveron for a tribal border. Along with other archaeological information about possible Roman Marching Camps in the surrounding area, I have planned my interaction between the local tribes and the Roman forces of Agricola.

Now, there are pros and cons to making the assumption of a natural barrier.

I've been to a few recent archaeological talks for the area involved and read a number of texts to glean as much information on 'pre-Roman' settlements in north east Scotland. A broad consensus of the historical and archaeological experts indicates that the tribes people of the area were subsistence farmers who probably only took up arms during minor disputes with neighbouring tribes before the invasion of Rome. Their day to day lives would have been such that only a major threat to their animals, food stocks or families would have made them war with anyone. Unlike the Celtic tribes of central Europe, who may have been more warlike for purely territorial gain reasons, it seems that the more scattered population of the north east was much less warlike - except when threatened by a mighty foe like the Roman legions of Agricola.

With thanks to Google Maps
Ptolemy's map indicated a large swathe of what is now Tayside, Angus and a large part of Aberdeenshire as being inhabited by a tribe he named as Taexali. This Taexali tribal area, according to Ptolemy, extended to the Moray Firth. Where the River Deveron flows out to the North Sea at Banff might have roughly been the border between Ptolemy's Taexali and Vacomagi tribes.

A natural feature like the River Deveron seems, to me, to be a very reasonable territorial border so that is where I have chosen to set my Taexali and Vacomagi border in book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series. 

I choose to use the names given to us by Ptolemy because to invent new ones would be counter productive for me. I can make no guess at what the tribes themselves might have called themselves so I'm using Ptolemy's names in the hope that my readers can plot the locations of my scenes on a simple map (which I'll provide on publication)

Making the River Deveron my border is crucial to some of the incidents in my story, with regard to what General Agricola does with his troops, but more on that later...

I now have two other demands on my time today- one being 5 years old and the other 2 and 1/2.
Wishing you a lovely day!


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