5.4.1 The Late Glacial: excavation at Rubha Port an t-Seilich and its environmental context

Argyll now has the only known in situ Late Glacial site in Scotland, located at Rubha Port an t-Seilich (Mithen et al. 2015) – the site of Howburn in South Lanarkshire being a scatter of probably Late Glacial artefacts in a plough soil, intermingled with those from later periods (Ballin et al. 2010). In light of stone artefacts at Rubha Port an t-Seilich having Ahrensburgian affinities, and its most likely date being in the latter part of the Younger Dryas, this site has significance for the Late Glacial of NW Europe in general, notably the extent to which maritime adaptations were developed. At present, however, all that we know about Rubha Port an t-Seilich (other than its Mesolithic archaeology) is from a small collection of chipped stone artefacts and preliminary studies of tephra, pollen, phytoliths and the geochemistry of a sediment monolith. Whether the site contains a substantial number of artefacts, structural features, and preserved faunal material remains unknown. As such, this site should be the research priority for early prehistory in Argyll. As a hugely valuable by-product of this research priority, the Mesolithic deposits at Rubha Port a t-Seilich would also be excavated, these containing abundant artefacts, charred plant material, faunal remains and features indicative of significant structures.

The value of further evidence about the Late Glacial activities at Rubha Port an t-Seilich would be significantly enhanced if this could be placed within an improved understanding of the environmental context of Late Glacial and early Holocene exploration and settlement. Of particular importance is securing a better data and models for sea level change and tidal range between the Younger Dryas and the mid-Holocene. Exploring the extent – if any – of correlations between abrupt climatic fluctuations in the Late Glacial and early Holocene and the presence/absence of archaeological sites within the region should also be a key priority.