UK Mesolithic Projects, Sites and Finds
See Mesolithic stories on scoop.it | Last updated 03 Feb 2016
Updated | Mesolithic pit house, Ronaldsway Airport, Isle of Man
A selective list of recent Mesolithic projects, excavations and discoveries. Includes websites where available—not as many as you might hope for—and media coverage, often with “headline-catching” claims. Look out for “Atlantis“, “re-writing history” and battles over who is “the oldest”. Nevertheless, discoveries continue across developer-led, community and still some academic research projects and often prompt us to rethink some of our existing assumptions.
Links to national and regional British archaeological frameworks are also provided. These give extensive overviews of the archaeological background, historiography, assets and research agendas as well as useful bibliographies. Their benefit is to span most government and political boundaries. They contain both chronological surveys (and “transitions” between traditional epochs such as Mesolithic→Neolithic) as well as heritage, environmental and cross-period human activity themes.
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This list is compiled from Internet searches, heritage e-news (largely on Twitter #mesolithic, Facebook and syndicated news-feeds such as Scoop-it, Past Horizons and Heritage Daily, online media and local knowledge. Academic articles and monographs seldom include accessible Internet URLs or websites suitable for a general interest readership.
I also recommend subscribing to Mesolithic Miscellany website | Facebook. Subscribers to institutions such as the Prehistoric Society (PAST magazine), Antiquity and CBA’s British Archaeology, will have access to regular news updates too.
National and Regional Archaeological Research Frameworks
- Regional Archaeological Research and Resource Frameworks England | Multi-period, ALGAO portal to UK regional publications which give good and extensive overviews of known assets, historical context and priorities. Each includes a useful bibliography.
- Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF)
- Research Framework for the Archaeology of Wales
- Research Frameworks for the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic of Britain and Ireland (Prehistoric Society 1999)
- Mesolithic Research and Conservation Framework for England (University of York PhD Project)
A 48pp booklet has been produced by the University of York (with English Heritage and CBA): Milner, N. and Blinkhorn, E. 2014 (Free download from ADS).
- Coastal shell middens and agricultural origins in Atlantic Europe
Nicky Milner, Geoff Bailey, Oliver Craig, Naomi Belshaw, Eva Laurie | Archaeology Data Service (ADS) archive, University of York
Project 2002-5 | aimed to examine the role of marine resources and especially shellfish in the diet and economy of prehistoric hunters and gatherers living in Northwest Europe between about 8000 and 5000 years ago and the influence of these patterns on the spread and adoption of agriculture after about 5000 years ago.
- Amesbury, Wiltshire
Excavations at Vespasian’s Camp nr Stonehenge uncover over 12,000 Mesolithic flints, an aurochs tooth (6250 Cal BC) and boar’s tusk. Museum display in prep (2013) | BBC News Online 19-Apr-2013 | More 2013 excavation season news will follow | 2013 pictures, SciTech summary Oct-2013 “frogs legs” | Culture24 article 07-May-2014
- Asfordby, Leicestershire
Excavation of Deepcar type lithic scatter | Website
- Bletchingley, North Park Quarry Farm, Surrey
Large scale excavation (2005-6) revealed in situ flints, pits, hearths and activity areas | Website
- Bouldnor Cliff, Isle of Wight
Submerged landscape and settlement in the Solent, partly published, ongoing project | Website | BBC News 2012 with video
2015: a report in Science proposes 14C dates for einkorn “flour” by association: “einkorn DNA – from a substantial quantity of the cereal, most likely in flour form – was recovered by archaeologists from the Maritime Archaeology Trust from a layer of sediment which had lain buried several metres below the seabed. Associated material (mainly fragments of wood) was initially dated by radio carbon ‘Bayesian’ dating techniques to between 6010 BC and 5960 BC.” However, new DNA testing now suggests a modern date: “Modern DNA can easily contaminate precious samples so it is crucial to build in assurances that historic DNA is authentic.” | AIA Archaeology 03-Nov-2015 | Original story: Independent 26-Feb-2015
- Bradford Kaims, Northumberland
Wetland area with Neolithic burnt mounds and late Mesolithic evidence emerging | Blogsite news and videos
- Bridgwater, Somerset
Open-air cemetery, re-examination of historical finds (the only other British “cemetery” is Aveline’s Hole, Somerset) | BBC News 2011
- Culverwell, Portland Bill, Dorset
Discovered in 1966 and excavated by Susann Palmer, this is not a “new” discovery. However, excavations continue in the area and may reveal more Mesolithic activity (2013) | Excavations announcement 2013
- Cuxton, Kent
‘Over 12,000 items have been recovered including tranchet adzes, axes, microliths and various scrapers together with several items which have classic Upper Palaeolithic features. Investigations overseen by the KCC Community archaeologist, Andrew Mayfield. A report of the site is in the progress of being produced.’ Source: David May | Kentnews 2012
- Didcot, Oxfordshire
Mesolithic flints and multi-period settlement in wake of building development (Oxford Archaeology) | Oxford Times 22-Jan-13 | BBC News 2013
- Doggerland, North Sea
Published palaeo-environmental project mapping the land inundated by the North Sea up to c. 6100 BC | Website | Storrega slide (tsunami) article Daily Mail 02-May-2014 | New five-year €2.5m project announced 01-Sep-2015 to explore Doggerland sub-surface archaeology (Independent 01-Sep-2015)
- Fetcham, Surrey
Mesolithic activity close to River Mole (river terrace) discovered during 2.2km pipeline works | BBC News 14-May-2014
- Hastings-Bexhill, East Sussex
2012-14 work on the link road have revealed prehistoric activity from the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic onwards | BBC News 18-Jan-2014 (Oxford Archaeology)
- Howick, Northumberland
Completed and published excavation of Late Mesolithic house with radiocarbon sequence (cf East Barns and Echline, Scotland) | Website
- Isles of Scilly | St Martins | The findings, just published in the journal Antiquity, show how small flint tools uncovered at Old Quay during a dig in 2013 are more similar in shape and manufacture to those found in Belgium, Northern France and the Netherlands, than in England | ScillyToday 27-Aug-2015
- Isles of Scilly | Neolithic Stepping Stones Project (University of Reading, AHRC)
Stepping stones to the Neolithic: Islands, maritime connectivity and the ‘western seaways’ of Britain, 5000-3500 BC’ looked to five island groups and the surrounding seas for answers. These were the Channel Islands, Isles of Scilly, Isle of Man, Outer Hebrides and Orkney. “Another exciting find came from the Isles of Scilly dig, which unearthed a stash of around 50 microliths, tiny flint tools from the Mesolithic (pre-Neolithic) era. Rather than being of British design, these are in Belgian and northern French style. “That was very unexpected,” says Garrow. “It tells us that people were sailing between northern France, Belgium and the Isles of Scilly around 6000 BC. It’s a very good sign of pre-Neolithic maritime contact.”
- Lincoln, Brayford Pool | Mesolithic lithics discovered during investigations at Brayford Pool on the University of Lincoln’s campus. | Lincolnshire Echo 26-Nov-2015
- Little Holtby, North Yorkshire | ‘Deepcar’ type Early Mesolithic lithics with evidence for a temporary structure and potentially periodic occupation close to the River Swale in palaeo-landscape of kettle holes and open water in the Vale of Mowbray between the North York Moors and eastern Pennine foothills. Upgrading of the A1 to motorway status between Leeming and Barton (North Yorkshire) has offered an opportunity to re-explore the Early Mesolithic site at Little Holtby. Previous evaluation work recovered flint tools of “Deepcar” type – thought to date a little later than “Star Car” obliquely truncated microliths and indicating a river-based mobility between east coast flint sources (wolds chalk, beach and tills), the lowlands (Vale of Mowbray) and foothills of the eastern Pennines. The River Swale seems to have been a significant transit route throughout the Mesolithic and Neolithic: Thornborough henges & cursus, Scorton cursus to the north. | Mail Online 12-Jun-2014
- Low Hauxley, Druridge Bay, Northumberland | Evidence for later Mesolithic settlement and tsunami deposits from c. 6100BC Stregga slide event, as well as Beaker period burial cairn | BBC Look North 21-Aug-13
- Morecambe Bay, Kents Bank Cavern, Lancashire | Epi-Palaeolithic fragment of human leg bone radiocarbon dated to just over 10,000 years old. This is the earliest known human bone from northern Britain, following the retreat of the polar conditions of the last Ice Age.
- North East Yorkshire Mesolithic Project
Final phase 3, 2013 | Landscape project with trial excavations, website includes downloadable booklet and lithic fact sheets | PastHorizons article Dec 2012 | Whitby Gazette, Yorkshire Post | Mar 2013 Goldsborough Dig article Whitby Gazette
- Sefton, Merseyside | BBC with video | Guardian
Excavation with shelter and lithics | Media coverage Nov 2012
- Stainton West, Carlisle, Cumbria
Carlisle Northern Development Route (CNDR)
Developer-funded excavation by Oxford Archaeology North with >300K Late Mesolithic lithics (5,750 microliths), hearths, stake holes, beaver dam | Post-excavation project webpage
- Severn Estuary | extending from human and animal footprints preserved in mud at Goldcliff East, Martin Bell (University of Reading) heads a project to recover artefactual and environmental evidence ahead of the construction of the Severn barrage. The barrage will artificially raise water levels and so the archaeology is at risk of silting and erosion | BBC coverage 6-Jan-2013
- Star Carr, Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire
Ongoing wetland project with excavations directed by Prof Nicky Milner | Website
- Swale-Ure Washlands Project, Vale of Mowbray, North Yorkshire
Study of the fluvial, vegetational and landscape evolution and the impact of human activity around two North Yorkshire rivers during the later post-glacial (Holocene) period—13,000 years (Durham University Geography Department and consortium | Website and booklet (2004)
- Thames Foreshore, Vauxhall, London
Lithics and organic remains near MI6 HQ | Blog and video 2009
- Upper Teesdale, Cow Green Reservoir, Co Durham | Late Mesolithic site excavated by the Altogether Archaeology project team (North Pennines AONB). Radiocarbon dates and site report to follow | BAJR News 01-Sep-2015
- Biggar, South Lanarkshire
Published fieldwork | Website
- Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire Excavations by Birmingham University at Warren Field (crop marks) found a series of 12 pits which appear to mimic the phases of the moon and track lunar months | BBC BBC News 15-Jul-2013 | Internet Archaeology article (paywall) | Video by Vince Gaffney 15-Jul-2013
- Dunragit bypass, Dumfries & Galloway (SW Scotland)
Developer-led archaeology includes over 13,500 Mesolithic lithics and hut with finds spanning the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Romano-British periods. ‘The remains of a Mesolithic house was discovered in an area of criss-crossing palaeochannels, on the edge of a former estuary which existed here throughout prehistory. Radiocarbon dates recovered from the Mesolithic house revealed that this settlement dates to around 6000 BC‘. | The Scotsman 15-May-2014 | HeritageDaily article 16-May-2014 with images
- East Barns, Dunbar, East Lothian
Excavation of house with very early Late Mesolithic dates (cf Howick) | Website
- East Islay Mesolithic Project | Storakaig and Rubha Port an t-Seilich Archaeological evaluation of new Mesolithic sites on Islay, western Scotland by Steven Mithen and Karen Wicks.
University of Reading press release 09-Oct-15 about late glacial Ahrensburgian-style lithics and geo-archaeological evidence | Article in Journal of Quaternary Science (openaccess, PDF download Jun-2015)
- Echline, Midlothian
Another early house discovered on the site of new Forth crossing (with what looks like Early Mesolithic microliths?) | Developer-funded excavation | Media coverage Nov 2012 | BBC News | Telegraph | Mail
- Inner Hebrides Archaeological Project
Prof Steven Mithen’s ongoing work (University of Reading) | Web summary
- Mar Lodge Estate, Cairngorm mountains, Aberdeenshire | 2015 excavations by Graham Warren (UCD) with earlier than expected 14C radiocarbon dates | BBC News item 09-Jul-2015
- Nairn, Highlands
Mesolithic activity area at supermarket development site | BBC News 2011
- North East Scotland Archaeological Research Society (NESARS)
Fieldwalking projects are recovering early to late Mesolithic lithic assemblages | visit project summaries pages
OrkneyJar is an excellent archaeology blog and news site hinting at Mesolithic (or earlier) presence
- Maerdy Wind Farm, Rhondda Valley | 6,270 year old decorated timber “marker”, late Mesolithic or early Neolithic
- Mesolithic Wales overview | Nab Head, Pembrokeshire; Trwyn Du, Anglesey; Burry Holms, Gower; submerged forests; the Lydstep pig (legacy find); human; and animal footprints (e.g. Goldcliff East, published, filmed by Time Team)
Developer-funded excavation, Late Mesolithic lithics | Media coverage 2010
Isle of Man
- Ronaldsway Airport, Cass ny Hawin II | 2009 excavations by Oxford Archaeology North revealed a 7m diameter Mesolithic pit house with hazel floor, cached hazelnuts and narrow-blade tradition lithics but with a very early ‘Late’ Mesolithic date of c. 8200-7950 cal BC. The evidence is comparable to other very early ‘Late’ structures at Low Hauxley and Howick (Northumberland), East Barns and Echline (southern Scotland) and hints of something similar on the south Durham coast at Crimdon Dene (early 20th-century excavations). Peter Woodman excavated a similar structure near the present example in the 1980s.
Rep of Ireland and Northern Ireland
Archaeologist Robert M Chapple has spent the last few years cataloging radiocarbon and dendrochronological dates for Ireland. The latest release has geo-referencing and visualisation for 8288 radiocarbon and 313 dendro dates, including the Mesolithic period.
In his blog Robert talks to the development rationale, process, software, data sources and user options. The data visualisation is hosted on Tableau public servers and can be viewed directly there, or through the embedded version at the end of his blog post.
- Irish Archaeology | Web-based articles and papers including Mesolithic
- Dublin | Late Mesolithic fish trap discovered at Victoria Quay | Journal.ie news item 19-Jul-2013
- Hermitage, Co Limerick | Mesolithic cremation cemetery
Irish Archaeology webpage (2013)
- Londonderry | Very early excavated Neolithic settlement that has been under analysis for a decade. Finds to go on show at the Tower Museum. | Belfast Telegraph Feb 2013
- Mount Sandel, Co Derry | University College Dublin to reconstruct Mesolithic house (off-site) | Blog | Irish Archaeology webpage (2013)
- Tullaghoge Fort, Co Tyrone NI | Archaeologists have revealed that flint tool fragments have been found dating back before 5,000 BC to the Mesolithic period when hunter gatherer settlers inhabited Ireland. | News Letter, Irish Times 16-Feb-2015
- No recent projects or national media coverage found