3.1 Introduction

This chapter provides a regional overview of the period 12,700–4,100 BC looking at evidence from the Upper Palaeolithic and the onset of the Holocene during the Early and Later Mesolithic.

The overview includes the periods environmental background, the history of archaeological research and an assessment of the current resource including settlement evidence and material culture. It also encompasses sites and material located on the study regions geographical periphery such as the shell middens of the Forth Valley, the Late Hamburgian site at Howburn, South Lanarkshire (Ballin et al 2018) and the Later Mesolithic house site at Howick, Northumberland (Waddington 2007).

Photograph of 14 stone lithics on a black background.
Detail view of lithics from Howburn and Brownsbank farms, including Upper Palaeolithic tanged points © HES

In recent years excavations along the Forth Littoral at Cramond, Edinburgh (Lawson et al 2023), Echline Fields (Robertson et al 2013) and East Barns, near Dunbar East Lothian (Engl & Gooder 2021) have thrust the Mesolithic in the region into the limelight. These excavations produced nationally important, spectacular structural evidence associated with well stratified narrow blade lithic assemblages which have pushed the adoption of traditionally ‘later’ microlithic technology into the 9th millennium and have expanded theories about the re-colonisation of Scotland.

photograph of five people at an excavation site. String has been used to denote square boundaries of the sites various sections.
Excavation of Mesolithic House 6 at East Barns by AOC Archaeology © East Lothian Council

Similarly, Howburn Farm in neighbouring South Lanarkshire (Ballin et al 2010, Ballin et al 2018), provides evidence of some of the earliest groups known to have visited the British Isles in the late Pleistocene. This site was most probably occupied by hunters following reindeer herds across Doggerland through the Tweed Valley and therefore has great import for the study of the Upper Palaeolithic within the study region, the colonisation of early post glacial Scotland and its archaeological connections to continental Europe.

The map and table below show the key sites mentioned throughout this chapter.

Main PeriodsSub-PeriodsDate Range (BC)Key SitesDating (cal BC)Reference
MesolithicTerminal Mesolithic5,000–4,000Garvald Burn

Daer Valley Site 84

Daer Reservoir 3

Weston Farm



Ballin and Barrowman 2015

Ward 2017

Ward 2017

Ward 2017
MesolithicLater Mesolithic8,400–5,000Dear Valley 2
Scottish Borders

Daer Reservoir 1, Scottish Borders

East Barns, East Lothian                  

Echline, South Queensferry

Manor Bridge

Cramond, Edinburgh






Ward 2017      

Ward 2017

Engl and Gooder 2021

Robertson et al 2013

Warren 1998b    
Lawson et al 2023  
MesolithicEarly Mesolithic9,800–8,400Crawford Mains, Scottish Borders  
Late Upper PalaeolithicAhrensburgian10,800–9,800   
Late Upper PalaeolithicFedermesser-gruppen12,000–10,800Howburn, South Lanarkshire Ballin et al 2018
Late Upper PalaeolithicHamburgian/Creswellian12,700–12,000Howburn, South Lanarkshire Ballin et al 2018