Microliths add to evidence of Mesolithic activity on the Ness

The tiny crescent microlith recovered at the Ness. (Hugo Anderson-Whymark)

Three tiny flint tools are the latest evidence of Mesolithic activity on the Ness of Brodgar peninsula.

Previous finds of Mesolithic tools on site suggest people were living and moving across the Ness long before the Neolithic (c.4000–2500BC).

The crescent microlith and two backed bladelets were found by lithic specialist Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark in samples taken from Trench X and Structures Eight and Ten.

The microliths do not relate to the Neolithic use of the site but show that around 1,500 years before the construction of the Ness complex, hunter-gatherers were present in the area.

The people of the Mesolithic (c.7000–4000BC) were nomadic hunter-gatherers, living in small groups and shifting according the season and the availability of food supplies. This, along with the fact that they did not leave stone constructions means they have left little trace for the modern archaeologist.

Although we know that these wandering hunters crossed from Scotland into Orkney, it was not clear when, until the discovery of a charred hazelnut shell in 2007. The shell was recovered during the excavations at Longhowe, in Tankerness, and was carbon dated to 6820–6660 BC, showing that people were in the islands around 7000BC.

The Mesolithic microliths’ presence in the much later Neolithic buildings is due to disturbance and redeposition on site during the lifetime of the complex.

Hugo has also confirmed that the Neolithic chisel arrowhead found on site this summer brings the total for the Ness to 30 – a remarkable number given that the total found in Orkney to date stands at 47.