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Durham e-Theses
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Lithic and Raw Material Variability in the Mesolithic of the Western Isles: Contextualising “The Hybrid Industries of the Western Seaboard”

PIPER, STEPHANIE,FRANCES (2016) Lithic and Raw Material Variability in the Mesolithic of the Western Isles: Contextualising “The Hybrid Industries of the Western Seaboard”. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis assesses the lithic technology of the recently established Mesolithic of the Western Isles of Scotland, and how this technology fits into the occupation of these new sites. Moreover, it addresses whether the Western Isles sites are representative of the Scottish Mesolithic and how they fit within the Mesolithic of the north-east Atlantic façade.

Extensive investigations into the Mesolithic of western Scotland and the Inner Hebrides have revealed widespread coastal occupation, however, large areas are still devoid of such evidence. Until recently the Western Isles were one such instance, despite long-held assertions of anthropogenic vegetation disturbance inferred from pollen diagrams. The lithic assemblages analysed in this thesis represent the first definitive evidence for Mesolithic occupation in this region. These are contextualised within the current understanding of the Mesolithic in Scotland and its closest Atlantic neighbours – Ireland and Norway.

The assemblages demonstrate that locally available quartz was expediently worked to produce informal flake-based technology. Small quantities of flint were heavily curated and may have been imported from distant sources. This fits within a broad trend of an increased uptake in local raw materials and subsequent technological adjustment that occurs around the 7th millennium cal. BC, across the Atlantic seaboard. The import of exotic raw materials also indicates connections with other islands.

The exceptional organic preservation at these sites provides a rare insight into hunter-gatherer economy in western Scotland. The Mesolithic inhabitants of the Western Isles appear logistically organised, exploiting a broad-spectrum economy. This is supported by the generalised and expedient lithic technology.

The lack of microliths suggests insular technological developments in the later Mesolithic toolkit of the outer isles. This raises questions regarding our current understanding of the microlith as a symbol of Mesolithic technology and the validity of using microliths as definitive evidence for Mesolithic occupation. Consequently, this may aid future recognition of new Mesolithic sites where previously they may have been dismissed as undiagnostic scatters.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Mesolithic; archaeology; hunter-gatherer; Scotland; lithic; quartz; flint; microlith; raw material;
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 May 2017 13:14

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