Monday, 21 February 2011

Prehistoric bothy trips

Kiloran Bay, Colonsay. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of large scale hazlenut processing by mesolithic hunter-gatherers
I've always been more interested in prehistory than in history. Up until quite recently there has been very little reading matter on the topic, however  recent advances in science are allowing us to build up a far more complete picture of our ancestors and the world they inhabited.

The good old BBC is currently dishing up two excellent programmes in this area. Long-haired historian Neil Oliver is half way through his BBC2 series 'A History of Ancient Britain', while on Radio Scotland Alistair Moffat is fronting  'The Scots: A Genetic Journey'.

In the year and a half since I started this blog I've been getting my head around the geology of Scotland, so the timescales of human interaction with our landscape are staggeringly short in comparison. 

70,000 years ago: modern humans leave Africa
50,000 years ago: modern humans colonise Europe
11,000 years ago: end of ice age allows Mesolithic humans to colonise Britain
6,000 years ago: the New Stone Age (Neolithic period) reaches Northern Europe
4,000 years ago: Bronze Age
3,000 years ago: Iron Age, arrival of Gaelic culture in Scotland

I love the way that considering such long periods of time emphasises our position at the leading edge of the human journey. We are the first generation able to accurately assess our position in the scheme of things, able to consider what lies ahead in the context of what has already passed.

Neil Oliver visited the Hebrides; Col and Tiree; Colonsay; Islay and Jura. He painted a picture of mesolithic hunter gatherers sailing between these islands, harvesting the seasonal bounties of the land.  Alistair Moffat visited Scotland's oldest house, a few postholes on a site near Torness dating from 9,500 years ago. So the experts are telling us that Scotland's earliest inhabitants  were people who migrated regularly between sites on which they would have had either natural shelters or bothies.

Perhaps prehistoric bothies looked something like this reconstruction at Abriachan
I'm not really one for romanticising the past, but this mesolithic lifestyle doesn't look at all bad. Indeed it appears to have consisted wholly of the elements that us modern men use to counterbalance our stress-filled lifestyles of indoor work and consumerism: boating, bothying, fishing, fires and eating.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

...I'm right with you there for the summer, else get me some mammoth-fur trousers please...cheers, Laurie.

20 March 2011 at 18:08  

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