Archaeologists Have Unearthed Stone Age Tools Dating Back 6,000 Years In The Scottish Highlands

These are the first Stone Age tools that have been discovered in the north of Scotland.

Foggy shores representing Scotland.
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These are the first Stone Age tools that have been discovered in the north of Scotland.

Archaeologists have just announced that they have come across a discovery which they deem “internationally significant,” after unearthing Stone Age tools that date back 6,000 years in Scotland. The tools that were found include a harpoon and two large axes, and these were discovered on a beach in Tarradale in the Black Isle region of the Highlands.

As the Daily Mail reports, this region was once part of a Mesolithic settlement. Stone Age hunter-gatherers would have used these tools to kill the seals and whales scattered along the peninsula near their settlement.

However, the tools would have also come in handy for digging roots and stripping bark, and archaeologists believe that they may have been accidentally left at the site after residents abandoned the location — most likely because of significantly rising waters.

The discovery of the Stone Age tools in Scotland is particularly momentous as there have been very few tools of this kind found in Scotland so far, and some of these have now unfortunately been lost over time.

But as far as the north of Scotland goes, these are the first Stone Age tools to have been found. Other discoveries in Scotland have been made primarily along the west coast. The credit for unearthing the new artifacts goes to a program known as Tarradale Through Time: Community Engagement with Archaeology in the Highlands.

This program runs for three years and works in conjunction with The North of Scotland Archaeology Society, whose goal is to thoroughly study the Black Isle. Dr. Eric Grant, who is the chairman and project director of Tarradale Through Time, has explained that major discoveries such as these Stone Age tools have greatly “extended the map” when it comes to learning more about the past Mesolithic residents of Scotland.

“These finds have local impact, are of national importance to Scotland and have international significance. They add to our understanding of Mesolithic people and the period. Archaeology is 99 per cent hard work but when you find items like this, it creates a buzz. I think the diggers, the three different people who found these three different objects will be telling their story forever.”

The two Stone Age hand axes that were found were made out of the antlers of red deer — and into each of these was carved one hole, which archaeologists believe would have been made so that wooden shafts could be fitted into them. According to Dr. Grant, red deer antlers would have made exceptionally good hand axes.

“Antler is very hard but also resilient and makes a surprisingly effective axe. We are not sure what the axes were used for but they were certainly capable of chopping up large pieces of meat from whales, seals and deer or skinning bark of trees and digging up roots.”

Dr. Grant also added that he has a profound sense of respect for these Stone Age people, who survived under conditions that modern humans would find unthinkable.

“These people were rather more sophisticated than people think. We no longer think of them as primitive people. They are very adapted to their environment at a time when the land was still covered in trees. There would have been very few other people but a lot of wild animals. It is very easy to underestimate these people but not many of us would be able to survive like they did.”

Archaeologists are hoping that they will be able to continue examining the Scottish Highlands site to see what other discoveries can be made there, and are currently discussing where the Stone Age tools that were found will be displayed.