The prehistoric period of
man's existence is divided by archaeologists into the Stone Age, the Bronze
Age, and the Iron Age, according to the materials of which implements of
industry or weapons of war were constructed. It must not, however, be
supposed that bronze implements, when first fashioned, immediately displaced
stone implements or that weapons of iron at once superseded those in
previous use. The different periods overlapped, and the introduction of the
newer and better implements was gradual.
Of the Old Stone Age no
examples have as yet been unearthed in Scotland; but of the Neolithic or New
Stone Age examples are everywhere abundant. In Banffshire finely formed
arrow-heads, celts and scrapers have been discovered in various districts,
as Tarlair, Portsoy, the Cabrach, and Cullen. Near the Bin Hill there is
believed to have been a flint factory.
The Bronze Age is regarded as
having begun about 1300 B.C. Examples of bronze celts, spear heads, rings
and armlets have been found in the Cabrach, at Inverkeithney, and at
Auchenbadie in the parish of Alvah. The Auchenbadie armlet is particularly
fine, with bold ornamentation. A most interesting relic is a boar's head of
thin sheets of bronze hammered or moulded by pressure, which was unearthed
in 1817 at Leitchestown in Deskford parish. It is now in Banff Museum.
Of stone circles known to
have existed in the county in former days, some have disappeared, as in
Rathven parish, while others are fragmentary, as at Feithhill. At Rothiemay
is a recumbent stone with cup-markings.
Many cairns too have been
obliterated in various parts of the county. Some, as at Aberlour, have, when
opened, been found to contain sepulchral pottery and signs of cremation.
These have been attributed to the Stone Age. Cists with skeletal remains and
urns have been discovered in the Cabrach, for example, in the region of the
Baads (inland from Findochty), and at East Lyne in Kirkmichael parish.
Sculptured stones occur. One
is in the churchyard of Inveraven, another at Arndilly House, and a third at
Mortlach church. The Inveraven stone has the crescent and sceptre, the
triplet of circles, and the mirror and comb.
The Mortlach stone hears a
cross and representations of various living creatures.
A Roman sword from what were
formerly the bogs of Rettie, and Roman coins from Deskford and Dufftown have
been associated with a probable march of Roman legionaries.
Cave dwellers lived at
Tarlair, but circles have been recognised in the Cabrach, the kitchen midden
at the Craig of Boyne (whatever be its earliest date) has relics coming down
to mediaeval times—one has been definitely dated as of the fourteenth
Besides such ecclesiastical
antiquities as the sacrament houses of Deskford and Cullen, a highly
interesting relic (dug up in the old churchyard) of the pre-Reformation
church of Banff exists in the only known example of a stone Pieta found in
Scotland. It represent the Virgin in a sitting posture holding the body of
Christ on her lap.