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By Elma McMenemy

Aberdeen has been inhabited for 8,000 years, because the first Hunter-Gatherers settled at the banks of the River Dee. 4,000 years later, Bronze Age peoples left their mark at the panorama by way of developing an important variety of recumbent stone circles, as soon as regarded as areas of sacrifice. Invaders together with Celts, Romans and Vikings met violent, bloody resistance, and the positive Roman military left hundreds of thousands of Caledonian corpses for the crows following the conflict of Mons Graupius. From the slaughter of Aberdeen Castle's English garrison (part of a voters' rebellion in help of Robert the Bruce) to all-out attacks at the urban through Kings, Royalists and Nazis, no century has left town unmarked. Plague, warfare, extended family feuds, murderers, witches, covenanters and slavers - all have stained the silver urban purple with blood!

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Ironworking skills also allowed the development of more effective weapons, including swords for slashing enemies from a high vantage point, such as the top of a wall or perhaps even from horseback. AD 0–800 THE PICTS AND THE COMING OF THE ROMANS AROUND 2,000 YEARS ago, the descendants of the Bronze and Iron Age peoples found themselves fighting to defend all they owned and all they knew. Their new enemies were the formidable Romans, with their highly trained, disciplined and battle-hardened army.

Harlaw Monument and Bennachie, near Inverurie. (Author’s collection) Donald lost 900 men that day, while Mar lost 600 – a larger proportion of his force. Both sides claimed victory. However, Donald retreated to the Hebrides, his claim to the Earldom of Ross unsuccessful. Mar’s losses included a long list of nobles, lairds, citizens and the war-like Provost of Aberdeen. One history of the battle, based on contemporary writing, states: ‘The whole plateau is red with blood; from the higher points to the lower blood flows in streams … ’ Today, a monument stands near to the site, commissioned by Aberdeen City Council on the 500th anniversary of the battle.

Certainly, the place where he chose to settle and build his simple church was less than a mile from the North Sea and on land close to the River Don, where he is believed to have performed baptisms. Today, the Cathedral Church of St Machar stands on the same site. One of the world’s oldest granite cathedrals, most of the present building dates from the 1300s and early 1400s. It was here in Old Aberdeen, in 1495, that Bishop William Elphinstone founded a university for the north of Scotland. King’s College, named after King James IV who supported the university financially, was an important part of what became a prosperous burgh.

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