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Mesolithic discovery on Thrumster Estate

Since 2000 a fieldwalking project has been carried out in an attempt to identify evidence for early prehistoric settlement in Caithness. This has revealed lithic scatters around the shores of Loch Scarmclate and Loch Watten, along the coast at Keiss and in the Yarrows basin. This evidence demonstrates that settlement was occurring from the later Mesolithic period onwards, with a particular focus on south facing slopes close to water. The evidence suggests that in the later Mesolithic and early Neolithic people were fairly mobile, moving around the landscape between established sites.

Excavations conducted during 2001 and 2002 at the Mesolithic lithic scatter at Oliclett in the Yarrows basin have demonstrated that activities involving the manufacture of flint tools (microliths) had occurred in a specific location over a prolonged period of time. Activity had focused on several low mounds originally associated with a braided melt water channel. Environmental evidence indicated an open landscape of grasses and tall herbs; reed beds had colonised the water channel and there was also evidence of periods when Birch scrub was present. Although no evidence for settlement was found, analysis of microliths and debitage (waste stone chips) suggested that the site was more than just a temporary hunting camp and may have been important for ceremonial reasons.

In the later phases of the Neolithic and into the early Bronze Age, people appear to have become more sedentary. This is marked by a general down turn in the quality of the lithic technology and the abandonment of sites used in the preceding periods. It has been possible to distinguish between sites associated with domestic activities and those where activities associated with the processing of raw materials were taking place. It has also become clear that hunting was taking place in certain areas of the landscape, such as the upper slopes of valleys removed from the areas of domestic settlement - this is demonstrated by the recovery of isolated arrowheads in several upland locations.

Excavation at Everley Broch

A multi-period Iron Age mound at Everley, Tofts, near Freswick was excavated during the summers of 2001 and 2002. The work is part of a wider project that aims to pull the rich archaeological record of Caithness into current discussions of the Scottish Iron Age; while interest in other areas has grown markedly over the last 30 years, with a few exceptions, Caithness continues to be largely overlooked.

Project and Fieldwork 2001 - 2002

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