5.1 Summary

Having reflected on the nature of the early prehistoric archaeological record, research themes are explored relating to five temporal (and overlapping) phases of activity:

  1. Exploration and pioneering settlement, up to 9400 cal BP, when issues about responses to climate change at the Pleistocene/Holocene transition and the human drive to explore are prominent.
  2. Residential settlement, 9400-7800 cal BP, for which the focus is on Mesolithic mobility and foraging patterns.
  3. Population decline, 7800-7000 cal BP, when exploring the potential impact of the abrupt 8.2 Ka cold event and considering the differential survival and recovery of Mesolithic sites are important.
  4. Re-colonisation, 7000-5800 cal BP, for which there is a focus on the Oronsay middens and the extent to which there was ‘sedentism’ on this tiny island or a pattern of regional mobility.
  5. Appearance of a new, Neolithic lifestyle from 6300 cal BP-c 5800 cal BP, when the first funerary monuments, pottery and Neolithic style stone artefacts appear. This also covers what might be termed the demise of the Mesolithic, within which period indigenous hunting-fishing-foraging groups reacted to (and eventually adopted) the novel lifestyle based on agro-pastoralism.

Having reviewed these five temporal phases and their research themes, five priorities for future research are identified:

  1. Exploring the Late Glacial: by excavations at Rubha Port an t-Seilich, Isle of Islay and research on sea level change, tidal range, and vegetation history.
  2. Exploring the earliest Neolithic and the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition: by fieldwork to locate settlement sites, targeted excavations and dating of early funerary monuments, analysis of artefact assemblages, aDNA analysis of human remains and environmental reconstruction.
  3. Refining the early prehistoric chronology: by a programme of radiocarbon dating and Bayesian analysis.
  4. Heritage management of early prehistoric sites.
  5. Writing the history of archaeology in Argyll