2.2.3 The Upland Mesolithic

Although the main concentration of lithic assemblages has been found along the banks of the Tay estuary to date, the region’s earliest known evidence of lithic reduction activities derives from the uplands. This is unusual for Scotland where the Mesolithic has traditionally been considered a coastal phenomenon owing to the rich evidence from the islands and the west coast (Finlay 2016, 27). The site at Edramucky Burn (MPK174) on the northern side of Loch Tay demonstrates that hunter-gatherers were reaching far beyond the Tay estuary and navigating the main watercourse up past primary forest-clad shores to the river’s source around 7200–6700 BC.

Top left: greyscale map showing wider topography and the site location. Top right: broader map showing larger region with the excavation area highlighted with a square. Bottom: Line drawn map showing the topography of land surrounding the excavation trenches, structural remains and other features within the area.
The excavation at Edramucky Burn. The Mesolithic pit was located in P16. The possible microburin, and a retouched flint flake resembling a scalene-triangle microlith were recovered from P11 (Atkinson 2016, Illus 2.6)

The assemblages from Edramucky Burn indicate extensive lithic raw material procurement, preparation and tool manufacture using locally sourced quartz types, with artefacts made of coastal flint, including a possible scalene-triangle microlith. This suggests that the hunter-gatherer groups arrived with pre-made flint toolkits which they augmented using the local resources (MacGregor and Toolis 2016, 16). These groups carefully selected their upland camps to ensure access to freshwater and, as demonstrated by the environmental evidence, scrub-woodland resource. The site is situated atop a prominent moraine bank around 630m above sea level with commanding views of the surrounding landscape making it an ideal hunting-stand (MacGregor and Toolis 2016, 16). The Edramucky Burn site also stands at the foot of an important terrestrial routeway between Loch Tay and Glen Lyon suggesting a possible further use as a transitory camp which would have taken these early settlers deeper still into the northernmost upland glens of Perth and Kinross (Finlay 2016, 27). Although considered a lower quality material (although some quartzes have excellent flaking properties), the caching of quartz nodules in a pit supports the argument for intermittent or seasonal use by groups returning to favoured locations (MacGregor and Toolis 2016, 16). It has been suggested they could have taken on additional social meaning for the enactment of non-subsistence-orientated rituals such as initiation, seclusion, or for instruction over the course of time (Finlay 2016, 27).