New Publication: Prehistoric Communities of the River Dee.

Mesolithic Deeside.
A classic evocation of Mesolithic Deeside at work and the sort of evidence they are finding, by Ali Cameron.

Mesolithic Deeside are a voluntary community archaeology group who walk the ploughed fields along the middle reaches of the River Dee around Banchory in order to record the prehistoric archaeology by collecting worked stone from the surface of the field. In the three years from 2017 – 2019 their work resulted in the recovery of over 11,000 lithics representing at least 15 archaeological sites dating from around 12,000 BC to c.2,000 BC. Their work is exciting because it is shedding light on a period of Scottish archaeology about which very little is yet known: the Late Upper Palaeolithic right at the end of the last Ice Age. It also provides an unparalleled glimpse of the extent of human activity along the river.

While others were perfecting their sourdough recipes, or embroidering replicas of the Bayeux Tapestry, I was working with the members of Mesolithic Deeside and various associated archaeologists to produce a publication of the first three years of work of the group. The final words might be mine – but the hard work was undertaken by many others. I had a wealth of reports and field notes, all supplied by the team, from which to hone our document. There were also extensive photographs, maps and drawings – all put together through the talent of others.

Did we succeed in producing an informative but readable account? Download it from the link here and judge for yourself. I think it is a fascinating story, but then I am biased.

The other thing to note here is all the help and expertise we have received from others. From the National Lottery Heritage Fund who provided the funding that got the group going, to Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service who were always there with support and advice, and Historic Environment Scotland who have supported the final publication, as well as many, many other funding bodies along the way. Then there was the fantastic team at the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland who edited and published the final report as part of their wonderful Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports series (wonderful not just for the content but also because it is freely available – not a paywall in sight). And so many people along the way. Community archaeology is a brilliant evocation of the variety of skills that can be brought to bear on unravelling the past when people care.

I won’t say that there were not moments when I woke up in the middle of the night and despaired at the size of the task I had taken on. But for me the end result justifies those odd moments of reflection (and I do love writing).

The work of Mesolithic Deeside continues. No matter how much we know about the work of the past, there is always more to learn. If you want to join in, get in touch with them. It is fun – and healthy! And hopefully there will be more volumes like this one: the finds, and sites, since 2019 are already beginning to mount up!

New Publication – Lithic Scatter Sites

Mesolithic Deeside.
This evocative image by Ali Cameron gives a good idea of the joys of fieldwalking a lithic scatter site. Mesolithic Deeside members at work fieldwalking the prolific sites along the River Dee in Aberdeenshire.

Lithic scatters are one of the most common archaeological sites relating to Prehistory. What are they, how to investigate them, how to manage them? All is revealed in this new guidance document written with Scotland in mind. Thanks to the many people who consulted on this and helped with information and images. Although the document was written for those working on Scottish material, hopefully it contains information that will be of interest to those elsewhere.

It is free to download from the ALGAO website

New Publication

The waterfalls in the gorges at the upper reaches of the River Dee in the Cairngorm Mountains. One of the spectacular locations of the work on Mesolithic activity reported here.

It is always good to see a piece of research come to publication. In this case it brings back memories of a wonderful trip into the Cairngorms around the time of my 50th birthday to have a look at the location of some Mesolithic finds that Continue reading New Publication

Lost voices

The people of the past remain elusive no matter how much research we undertake. Nevertheless, some are brave, or foolhardy, enough to try to interpret past lives. It is important work (image shows Alex Leonard’s artwork for the cover of a nice teaching resource by Forestry and Land Scotland).

Reading the accounts of some excavations in Australia recently has made me rather melancholy. We have amassed a tremendous volume of data and investigation regarding the Mesolithic communities of Scotland. But something Continue reading Lost voices

Archaeology as Muse

I love a good book, and I love writing, but I could not write fiction! Thanks to Pete Stokes for this photo.

Archaeology is important to me. I just love it when it permeates everyday culture. It is a justification in my mind of its significance as an artefact, itself contributing to the way we live now. Continue reading Archaeology as Muse

New Publication – Into the Wildwoods

Into the Wildwoods is an imaginative new schools resource about the Mesolithic.

New Publication! Dare I say it is an exciting one. Not that I have done anything beyond churn out text. It owes everything to the talented Matt Ritchie, and his imagination and that of the team of artists and writers he put together. I don’t often work on publications for school so it has been fun. It is a free book, so I encourage anyone who is interested to download a copy whether or not you work with kids. It is a good read and the illustrations are fantastic. It looks great as a pdf!

The value of past studies

The shell midden at Caisteal nan Gillean in Argyll has been published many times. Each publication builds on the work of the last.

I’ve been considering the way in which our understanding of archaeology changes over time. New techniques of analysis, the application of new theories and the discovery of new data constantly refine our interpretation of the past. Continue reading The value of past studies

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