The History of Leith

November 3, 2010

Leith in Prehistoric and Roman Times Part 3

The ground on which Edinburgh now stands is higher than that which lies between it and the sea, and would Therefore afford more security against the attacks of wild beasts and neighbouring tribes. But to the uncivilized man of that time this advantage was more than counterbalanced by other considerations. In the first place, the dense
forests would offer him little temptation to penetrate inland; and then, also, he would want to live as near as he could to the sea which provided him with fish, and along the shores of which at ebb-tide he
gathered the limpets, mussels, and cockles which formed so large a part of his diet.
These first forefathers of ours lived in rudely constructed dwellings, clothed themselves in skins, and lived on the produce of the sea and such animals as they were able to kill in the forests.
They did not know the use of metals. Their implements and weapons were made of stone, bone, horn, or wood. As time went on they gradually became less barbaric. Their stone implements became more finely and more symmetrically worked. Then a discovery was made which lifted the prehistoric peoples into a higher stage of culture and civilization. This discovery was the art of making bronze.

Lastly, just as stone gave way to bronze, so bronze in its turn was superseded by iron. When the use of iron was discovered, tools could be made which were far superior to those made of bronze, just as bronze tools had been far superior to those made of stone. As you doubtless already know, these three periods in our history are known as the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages.
None of the dwellings of these old peoples are known to have been discovered on the site on which Leith stands. This is not to be wondered at, since they were made, not of stone, but of timber, which must have decayed long ago. We cannot even find traces of their existence because these have been obliterated by the cultivation of the land before a town came to be built on it. But the skulls of these early inhabitants have been found, as also some of their wedge-shaped stone hammers and axes of bronze. You will find some of these in the Antiquarian Museum in Queen Street, Edinburgh,(moved now to the National Museum of Scotland, Chamber St,Edinburgh) a building which you might to visit if you are interested in prehistoric Scotland.
In it you will see a very large collection of articles belonging to prehistoric ages which have been discovered at various times in different parts of Scotland. These have been systematically arranged so that the visitor may trace the successive changes in the life of prehistoric man and his gradual progress in civilization. You will be especially interested in searching out the objects which have been contributed from Leith.
To sum up the progress made from the first human occupation of the site of Leith, we may say that at the beginning of the Christian era prehistoric man had left much of his savagedom behind him. He had begun to grow corn ; he was in possession of domestic animals
the horse, dog, ox, sheep, and goat; he had implements of iron, and he showed considerable mechanical skill in various directions.
The materials of unwritten history are to be found in caves, rock shelters, and ,underground dwellings, in river beds, in drained lochs, in hill forts, and in the memorials erected to their dead by the prehistoric races.
With the coming of the Romans to Scotland in A.D. 80 we emerge from the period of unwritten history. Our knowledge of the history of Leith will henceforward be obtained from books, and from written records and documents.

Source-The Story of Leith

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