Inner Hebrides - Prehistory


The Hebrides were originally settled in the Mesolithic era and have a diversity of prehistoric sites. A flint arrowhead found in a field near Bridgend, Islay has been dated to 10,800 BC. This find may indicate the presence of a summer hunting party rather than permanent settlement. Burnt hazelnut shells and microscopic charcoal found at Farm Fields, Kinloch on Rùm indicate a settlement of some kind and this is amongst the oldest evidence of occupation in Scotland.

Evidence of large-scale Mesolithic nut processing, radiocarbon dated to circa 7000 BC, has been found in a midden pit at Staosnaig on Colonsay. The dig discovered the remains of hundreds of thousands of burned hazelnut shells and gives an insight into communal activity and forward planning in the period. The nuts were harvested in a single year and pollen analysis suggests that the hazel trees were all cut down at the same time. The scale of the activity, unparalleled elsewhere in Scotland, and the lack of large game on the island, suggests the possibility that Colonsay contained a community with a largely vegetarian diet for the time they spent on the island.

Three stone hearths and traces of red ochre found on Jura and dated to 6000 BC are the earliest stone-built structures found so far in Scotland. However in general the Neolithic sites in the Inner Hebrides lack the scale and drama of those found in Orkney and the Western Isles. There are numerous Iron Age sites including the remains of Dun Ringill fort on Skye, which are similar in layout to that of both a broch and a complex Atlantic roundhouse.

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