by Helen Spencer
This nationally important late Mesolithic site was discovered at Freeland Farm (MPK20049), during fieldwalking organised as part of the Tayside Landscape Partnership’s Early Settlers Project. The project aimed to get local people working together to shed new light on the area’s early prehistory by taking part in organised fieldwalking sessions.
The site sits south of Perth in the inner part of the Tay estuary. The late Mesolithic evidence dates to 8400-4000 BC. While some miles inland now, during the Mesolithic the site was likely to have sat on the shoreline as the sea level was around 12 metres higher than it is now.
The first lithics were discovered at the Freeland Farm site in 2015. A more intense program of fieldwalking was undertaken in this area in subsequent years and 707 lithic artefacts were recovered in total which is by far the largest Mesolithic assemblage found in Perth and Kinross.
Of these finds 73 were identified as tools such as scrapers, arrowheads and knives. As well as these finished stone tools, there was also a large proportion of ‘debitage’ – which is the debris left from knapping and striking stones to make the tools. This included ‘cores’ and microflakes. Their presence show that people were bringing stones to the site and making lithics their. The site may have been somewhere where people lived for periods during the Mesolithic and Early Neolithic (Nicol and Ballin 2019).
The majority of the Late Mesolithic finds from Freeland Farm were made from brown carnelian – a stone that is also known as jasper. This rock was likely found locally, either collected on beached along the north sea coast or could have been picked up as pebbles from the nearby estuary. As well as the lithics made from carnelian there also tools made from flint, quartz and other stones.
It is likely that the brown colour of the stone had a special meaning to the Mesolithic people and may have been a means of identifying themselves as a specific local group (Ballin and Nicol 2017; Nicol and Ballin 2019, 39). The dense scatter of lithic finds in the eastern part of the site suggests that this area may have been visited and revisited over a long period. There may have been small settlements and knapping floors which were used again and again over time (Nicol and Ballin 2019, 40).
A full report on the project and an analysis of the finds was published as an Archaeological Report Online and can be read here.
Ballin, T B and Nicol, S 2017 ‘Mesolithic carnelian artefacts from the Tay estuary’, Archaeology Scotland 29, 22–23.
Nicol, S and Ballin, T B 2019 ‘Freeland farm, Perth and Kinross – a mainly late Mesolithic carnelian assemblage from the Lower Strathearn’, Archaeology Reports Online 36. Accessed 22 July 2019. <https://www.archaeologyreportsonline.com/reports/2019/ARO36.html>