Palaeolithic and Mesolithic – Overall Research Recommendations

Here are links to all the research recommendations for the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic, in one easy to find place.

Theme 1 – History and Current state of studies in Scotland

Consideration of the story of the discovery of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology in Scotland so far suggests there is still much more research and investigation to be done, including:

  1. Detailed historiographic consideration of the recognition of the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic in Scotland.
  2. Investigation of the intellectual history of studies of these periods in Scotland, including biographical research on key figures and excavations, e.g. Symington Grieve (on Oronsay) and Lacaille.
  3. Examination of existing lithic artefacts in museums and private and commercial collections to isolate diagnostic types and to document provenances.
  4. Enhancement of national and local records to ensure proper representation of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic evidence for development control and research purposes.
  5. Analysis and publication of existing backlog of fieldwork assemblages known or likely to include Mesolithic (and Palaeolithic) artefacts, including some key sites/assemblages which should be prioritised.
Theme 2 – Environment

Key areas for future work include:

  1. The effect of the environment on past communities, including both long-term processes and events such as the tsunami, as well as considering the impact of the human presence upon Scotland’s environment, vegetation, and animal population.
  2. Comprehensive surveys of the data available for all aspects of the environment and biotope through the Lateglacial and early Holocene.
  3. Exploring the development of Scotland’s coastline over time based on point data, considering the impact of sea-level change on contemporary populations, and integrating this with established projects including work on Doggerland.
  4. Development of predictive modelling for submerged site survival, and focused survey for submerged sites in likely locations.
  5. Liaison with Quaternary scientists over the reconstruction of the North Sea plain and its transgression through the Lateglacial and early Holocene.
Theme 3  The Archaeological record

Key areas for future work include:

  1. Detailed work on reconstructing conditions during the Lateglacial period and their implications for site location and survival.
  2. Systematic mapping and recording of cave potential for early sites, re-examination of existing cave assemblages, and targeted examination of new sites where appropriate.
  3. Synthesis of existing information on tool types and site locations, re-examination of existing assemblages, development of extensive dating strategies, and a focus on the publication of excavated sites.
  4. The excavations of the areas beyond the midden itself, especially the margins.
  5. Recognizing the combined archaeological and palaeoenvironmental potential of lateglacial kettle-holes and postglacial waterlogged deposits along river valleys.

Theme 4 – Methodologies

The appropriate use of scientific techniques is an important factor for any archaeological project. Specific recommendations include:

  1. Examination of archaeological assemblages 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, etc.);
  2. Comparison of archaeological samples with geological samples, in collaboration with geologists and in the field, as well as the lab, where possible;
  3. Field work to inspect potential source locations/quarries.
  4. Development of work on use-wear/residue analysis for lithic assemblages and more frequent application to excavated material.
  5. 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.
  6. Experimental replication of artefactual and site processes
Theme 5 – Lifestyles
  • Analysis of the relationship between inland and coastal communities
  • Further consideration of the issue of burial traditions
  • A focus on the possibility of waterlogged or submerged sites with enhanced preservation of material and artefacts rarely found elsewhere
  • Further work on art and decoration
  • Continued analysis of the transition to farming



Four rows of nearly 50 microliths averaging two centimeters in length

Microliths from Dryburgh ©Alan Saville

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