SCOTLAND’S archaeological record flatly contradicts the traditional British (and subsequent Hollywood) depiction of prehistoric Scotland as a poorly-populated untamed wilderness filled with barely-human woodland people with no language, no clothes, and no permanent habitation.

We’re supposed to believe that thousands of Iron Age parents, teachers, farmers, and engineers spent most of their impossibly short lives standing half-naked in the rain, usually behind a tree but always half-caked in mud, for absolutely no reason.

There were functioning civilisations on both sides of every Roman frontier, but it was convenient for 19th century imperial Britain to portray the Romans as the only true civilisation in town. Anyone else could be rudely dismissed as an uncultured semi-magical cave person or bloodthirsty pagan.

The only cultures lurking north of the Roman Wall, we are still told, were the mysterious unskilled beyond-the-wall people of Scotland, possibly the only highly skilled group in European history routinely accused of living in a rainy climate without a home or a village or even a tent. Or roads.

When Roman troops gave Scotland a brief visit in AD71, our skilled population was already building and maintaining remarkable hilltop towns and fertile valley settlements.

When the Romanisation of Southern Britain peaked, Iron Age communities in the north were free to fail or flourish in relative peace behind a series of redundant Roman frontier fortifications. Scotland’s various cultures had already constructed hundreds if not thousands of tall stone towers when the absentee Romans finally abandoned their last British territories in AD410. By that time most people north of Hadrian’s Wall would’ve stopped noticing pointless unannounced arrivals (and swift departures) of small bands of sad Romans.

European cultures, including those living in Scotland, were already elbow-deep in agricultural science and structural engineering programs thousands of years before the Roman Empire (27BC-476AD) was even a thing.

Observant late Stone Age people realised that some of their better pottery kilns were hot enough to extract metal from rocky ores. Bronze Age cultures were already utilising large wheeled vehicles to transport rock, metals, and agricultural produce from their factories and farms 4000 years ago.

Stone Age and Bronze Age people in Scotland had language. They had homes.

Neolithic people constructed at least one unusually-large timber building (26m x 13m) with a 10m high roof in Aberdeenshire almost 6000 years ago. Another community, based in Uist, was already experimenting successfully with artificial island technology, the earliest in Britain to do so. In Orkney, one group had constructed complex stone houses and stone villages by 3100-2500BC.

It’s not reasonable to continually depict experienced agriculturalists and metallurgists as hairy toothless cave-dwellers with no combs or vocabulary.

Prehistoric people knew how to use selective breeding to create distinctive varieties of sheep, boar, goat, cattle, and dog more than 10,000 years ago. They invented pottery, designed the first furnaces, and learned how to turn slender wild fruits and grains into plumper products. Rice, barley, lentils, chickpeas, wheat, etc, were all domesticated and cultivated by Neolithic farmers 8000 years before the Roman Empire.

Pre-Roman cultures were the first to use seasonal calculations, the first to build solid weather-proofed homes, and the first to deploy effective irrigation technology. They developed the first boats, fields, factories, and medical intervention techniques. They were the first to experiment with metal alloys, beginning with tin, arsenic, and copper, to create bronze. They invented the first written languages and musical instruments. They even invented wheeled transport.

Imagine you’re cruising home in your new wheels after collecting two loads of fresh fruit (and some speciality meats) from the well-reviewed factory culture five glens away. You park outside the traders’ stalls, where you get a new set of micro-knives (for the meat), a new comb (for Wee Dave’s new haircut), an obsidian mirror to check your family’s excellent teeth (low-sugar diet), and some newly developed pest-resistant strains of oat (for pure larks). It’s the little things, you realise, and for the first time in two months, you’re happy again.

Then, 4000 years later, British and American cinema repeatedly portrays you and your wee family as unclean toothless non-verbal cave-entities.

Sneering at un-Romanised cultures makes no sense. They invented all the best stuff.

I blame the Victorians.