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That there was a spiritual side to the life of the earliest inhabitants of the highlands and islands, the barrows and occucists testify; as also, most of all, do the great stone circles like those at Brodgar in Orkney or Callanish in Lewis, along with the many standing stones and circles on Mull. These sites are signs of a conscious and deliberate decision, by people of whom we know so little, to raise symbols of honour and respect. As time passed these symbols came to bear carvings, proving that an artistic instinct had developed and was here revealed.
These then were our ancestors. They were not unique. Those who came here had come from somewhere else, and there they had left behind their kindred. The distinctiveness of the Scots is not therefore to be found in any one genetic origin, but rather in the blending of all these components which occurred here and, in these proportions, here alone.
We are inclined to form wrong impressions of what would happen as successive waves of invaders descended upon the people already in possession of the land. It is easy to assume that invaders would go in for massacre and extermination, but a little commonsense should lead us to calmer and more accurate judgement.
For one thing, while some victims of the attack will die in heroic resistance, and others, more lucky, will run away, the vast majority simply stay where they are and make the best of a bad job. The conquerors, for their part, don't want corpses, they want workers, servants, perhaps slaves, but at least useful, living subordinates.
Also when conquest and occupation by intruders first happens, the intruders are almost by definition, warrior bands and thus male. As well as land and property, victorious men will seize upon women by right of conquest, and will claim them as their mates. After the initial attacks had occurred and a new dominant group had established itself, the future lay with people whose parentage was part native and part conqueror.
The conquerors, to be sure, would impose their kind of society, their customs, and, especially, their language; but they could not and did not eradicate the people they had conquered. They dominated and ruled, but that is not the same as destroying those now at their mercy.
We can see this pattern unfolding when we turn to consider the group of invaders who next came to Britain, because we are in a position to know much more about them than we can possibly know of the earliest peoples.
For knowledge of these earliest inhabitants we have to rely upon archaeology and scientific deductions, but the new invaders have left an oral and, eventually, a written record from which we can draw understanding.
These new invaders, arriving some 2500 years ago, were members of the Celtic racial group, coming from the north-western parts of Europe, and at least kindred of, if not wholly identical to, the Gauls who then held those lands. They were of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic peoples, or 'P' Celts, so called because their language commonly employed labial consonants, p, b, v and so on, in words like 'pen' = 'head' and 'ap' = 'son of'. They established their supremacy over the land and its existing inhabitants imposing their ways and their languages. The now subordinate natives, most of them, lived on, but their language did not. Only fragments of any pre-Celtic speech remain, particularly in place names. (After all the oldest named things in the world are the mountains and rivers and other natural features upon which humans have looked since mankind's earliest days.) About three centuries B.C. numerous hordes of Gauls crossed the Alps and penetrated to the centre of Etruria, which is nowadays Tuscany. The Etruscans, being then at war with Rome, proposed to take them, armed and equipped as they had come, into their own pay.