Along the Western Isles of Scotland, archaeologists have made a remarkable discovery after finding a submerged prehistoric forest in Lionacleit — along with ancient artifacts such as stone tools, and other evidence of human activity.
As the BBC reports, archaeologists have called this stunning prehistoric forest “incredibly rare.” But despite the fact that the Western Isles of Scotland have had numerous other ancient woodlands pop up unexpectedly over the years, archaeologists are nevertheless calling the discovery of the prehistoric forest in Lionacleit “extra special.”
Part of the reason for this excitement is that besides the prehistoric forest itself, archaeologists have also found ancient artifacts which would indicate that there was once a butchery site located here. Stone utensils that residents would have used to have partaken of the food that was produced at this site were also discovered.
Some of the prehistoric tools discovered include a quern stone — which would have been used to grind food — along with bone and quartz fragments, which would likely have been part of other tools. According to Dr. Joanna Hambly, an archaeologist with The Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion Trust (SCAPE), the tools that were found near the prehistoric forest had survived because of their fortunate placement within an intertidal zone.
“An unexpected discovery during the fieldwork was the realization that archaeological remains survived in the intertidal zone. These include a wall, the possible remains of sub-circular stone structures which could be houses, a quern stone and butchered animal bone associated with struck quartz tools. To find the remains of a butchery site is incredibly rare — the survival of a single action in prehistory preserved in intertidal peats.”
— BBC Scotland News (@BBCScotlandNews) January 16, 2019
Dr. Hambly also explained that the stone tools which were found were technically closer to the beach than to the prehistoric forest, and that radiocarbon dating will give archaeologists a much better idea about how old these artifacts really are.
“These remains are all much closer to the beach than the forest, and are almost certainly much later in date. We don’t know how old they are yet, but have submitted samples for radiocarbon dating.”
The sub-fossilized trees that were found in the prehistoric forest of Lionacleit are between 7,000 to 10,000 years of age — and include Scots pine, alder, ash, elm, birch, hazel, willow, aspen, rowan, and oak.
However, between 6,000 and 4,500 years ago, this pretty woodland began a slow decline in growth, with many of the trees disappearing altogether. Approximately 2,500 years ago, SCAPE noted that the Western Isles of Scotland had sadly become “more or less treeless.”
With the surprising discovery of the prehistoric forest — and the ancient tools found at the Lionacleit site in Scotland — Dr. Hambley has stated, “When the radiocarbon dates have been processed, we will write up the story of Lionacleit and review what further research could be done at this fantastic site — or at similar sites.”