NE Scotland Regional Research Framework - Mesolithic


The Middle Stone Age (8000BC - 4000BC), falling between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic, marks the beginning of a move from a hunter gatherer society towards a food producing society. The Early Mesolithic is characterised by mainly simple, relatively large microlith types made on broad blades. The Late Mesolithic is characterised by more elaborate stone tools including more elaborately retouched 'narrow blade' microliths and other edge-blunted forms.

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Research agenda

The research agenda gives an overview of the principle themes that research should follow in NE Scotland for the Mesolithic. The agenda has been split into different headings in order to relate them directly back to the national ScARF research headings.

History and current state of studies in NE Scotland

ScARF theme 1 key areas for future work include:

  • enhancement of Historic Environment Record data for NE Scotland to ensure proper representation of Mesolithic evidence for development control and research purposes
  • analysis and publication of existing backlog of fieldwork assemblages known or likely to include Mesolithic artefacts, including key sites and assemblages which should be prioritised

The environment of NE Scotland

ScARF theme 2 key areas for future work include:

  • examine the effect of the Storegga tsunami on NE Scotland and the impact it had on contemporary populations
  • examine the process of environmental change, and their resultant impact, upon NE Scotland and reconstruct the environment in the NE Scotland during this period
  • examine the impact of the human presence upon NE Scotland’s environment, vegetation, and animal population
  • explore the development of NE Scotland’s coastline over time and consider the impact of sea-level change on contemporary populations
  • develop a predictive model for submerged site survival off NE Scotland’s coast, and focus survey for submerged sites in likely locations

The archaeological record 

ScARF theme 3 key areas for future work include:

  • understand the conditions during the Late-glacial period and their implications for site location and survival, in particular the major rivers and coastal plains of NE Scotland
  • synthesis of existing information on tool types and site locations in the NE Scotland, including the re-examination of existing assemblages and the development of extensive dating strategies
  • examination of existing lithic artefacts in museums and private collections relating to NE Scotland to document provenances

Lifestyles in NE Scotland

ScARF theme 4 key areas for future work include:

  • analysis of the relationship between inland and coastal communities, in particular the major river glens of the NE and coastal strip of Aberdeen and the Sands of Forvie
  • further consideration of the issue of burial traditions and where they may have happened in the NE Scotland
  • understand how the transition to farming began and spread within NE Scotland
  • examine in situ knapping sites and any structural remains with a view to understanding community size and distribution in NE Scotland

Methodologies to be followed

ScARF theme 5 key areas for future work include:

  • examination of archaeological assemblages from NE Scotland to gauge whether the procurement sites may be primary or secondary sources, and whether the raw material may represent any form of selection (flaking properties, colours and patterns)
  • field work to inspect potential source locations for the raw materials used in the lithic industries
  • Development of work on use-wear and residue analysis for lithic assemblages and more frequent application to excavated material
  • understanding the dynamics of the formation of occupation deposits as well as identifying specific craft or processing activities within sites through the application of a range of methodologies to artefactual analyses, including use wear and contextual analysis