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Prehistoric Annals of Scotland
By Daniel Wilson, LL.D. in two volumes (1863)


During the interval that has elapsed since the first edition of this work appeared, the relations which it aimed at determining between Archaeology and kindred sciences have been matured to an extent then very par tially apprehended, The progress of antiquarian investigations, and the value they have acquired in recent years in relation to other studies, render the changes demanded in a second edition unusually extensive. I have accordingly availed myself of the opportunity to remodel the whole. Fully a third of it has been entirely rewritten; and the remaining portions have undergone so minute a revision as to render it in many respects a new work.

One object aimed at when this book first appeared, was to rescue archaeological research from that limited range to which a too exclusive devotion to classical studies had given rise; and, especially in relation to Scotland, to prove how greatly more comprehensive and important are its native antiquities than all the traces of intruded arts. In some respects the aim has been so effectually accomplished, that it has become no longer necessary to retain arguments constructed with a view to the refutation of learned or popular systems involving Roman, Danish, or other foreign sources of native art; or to combat Phoenician, Druidical, or other theories, invented to substantiate equally baseless systems of pseudo-historical fable. In other directions, however, speculations then indulged in, have since been followed out to an extent compared with which the boldest of them can no longer seem extravagant. In the application of the term Prehistoric—introduced, if I mistake not, for the first time in this work,—it was employed originally in reference to races which I then assigned reasons for believing had preceded the oldest historical ones of Britain and Northern Europe. But since then the term has become identified with a comprehensive range of speculative and inductive research, in which the archaeologist labours hand in hand with the geologist and ethnologist, in solving some of the most deeply interesting problems of modern science. The plan of this work only embraces the evidence derived from a narrow insular area; but, limited though its pages are to the pre historic arts and ethnic affinities of one country, and that apart from regions hitherto productive of the most primitive traces of human art: it will nevertheless be seen that the evidence which bears on the great question of the antiquity of man finds many illustrations from Scottish chroniclings. Now also that the relations of archaeological investigations to other scientific inquiries are intelligently recognised, the evidence and speculations embodied in these volumes in reference to prehistoric and pre-Celtic races may acquire a new significance and value. The careful study of the primitive antiquities of Britain led me to the conviction, set forth in the former edition, that we must look to a much more remote period, and to earlier races than any of those with which classic historians have familiarized us, for the beginnings of our insular history. Since then, long residence on the American continent, and repeated opportunities of intercourse with the Aborigines of the New World, have familiarized me with a condition of social life realizing in the living present nearly all that I had conceived of in studying the chroniclings of Britain’s prehistoric centuries. The experience thus acquired in novel fields of ethnological research, have materially aided me in the revision of opinions originally based on purely speculative induction ; and recent opportunities of renewed study on the scenes of my earlier investigations, have enabled me to enlarge in many respects the; illustrations which Scottish antiquities contribute to the broader aspects of Archaeological science.

The Second Volume is chiefly occupied with subjects of antiquarian and historical research of a very recent date, when compared with the essentially prehistoric traces of man. Nevertheless they are replete with interest in their bearings on national arts, customs, and social progress; and are of no less value to the historian than those of earlier periods have become to the geologist. To those also the opportunities for revision which a second edition supplies have afforded means for making numerous additions and alterations, which I venture to hope accomplish more nearly than formerly the ambitious aim then set before me, of establishing a consistent and comprehensive system of Scottish Archeology.

Along with the other changes by which this edition of the Prehistoric Annals of Scotland aims at more effectually achieving the purposes implied in its title, the pictorial illustrations have been greatly increased, several of the former plates and woodcuts have also been reenoraved from new drawings: and in addition to those, I have to acknowledge the great liberality with which the Councils of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the Archaeological Institute of Great Britain, and the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, have placed their woodcuts at my service. To my friends Professor Simpson, George Harvey, Esq., and Thomas Constable, Esq., I am also indebted for other illustrations with which the following pages are enriched.

University College, Toronto, October 1863.

Volume 1   |    Volume 2

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