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Perth and Kinross


Norse code taps back 9000 years to life in Highlands

From the 23rd December edition of The Herald.


Archeologists have discovered the remains of a 9000-year-old community that shows Scotland's earliest settlers may have been of Nordic origins. The site, halfway up the 4000ft Ben Lawers in Perthshire, has uncovered a range of flints and tools almost identical to those originally created in Norway. However, it came as a surprise. Dr John Atkinson, of Glasgow University, was leading a five-year project to excavate the area and was working on another site at the time. "We were looking at structures relating to the 1570s when we dug a bit deeper and stumbled upon the site," he said. "It is the earliest inland site and certainly the first highland settlement to have been found in Scotland."

He believes the discovery shows settlers were living on the mountain range some 10,000 years ago after the glaciers receded. More than 9000 pieces of material have been found, and the head of Glasgow University's archeological research division believes historians will be forced to reconsider what was previously taken for granted. "We found flints, blades and lots of quartz debris from where they had obviously tried to repair their tools," said Dr Atkinson. "We believe they came inland from the coast - which was the only place they could have found the flint - to hunt deer through the valley. The similarities between their tools with those found in Norway is very exciting."

The comparisons point to the theory that Scots fled east to Norway at the onset of the ice age, but came back in surges to repopulate the country once the glaciers had melted. Archeologists have only discovered scattered settlements before the Ben Lawers find, most of them based around the coastline and lowlands. However, the new site has led historians to believe the first settlers may well have been far more advanced than was once thought, able to adapt to the inhospitable climate of the Highlands.

The discovery comes after a recent increase in funding to protect the natural landscape of Ben Lawers. The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded an additional £1m to the National Trust for Scotland in June to assist a five-year programme of repairs on Ben Lawers, Glencoe and other mountains. The project is designed to improve public walkways, and at the same time, preserve the land. The five-year Ben Lawers historic landscape project started in 2002, aiming to coordinate wide-ranging studies into human influence on the landscape of North Lochtayside. Information in the field is being collected through detailed topographic and underwater surveys, excavations, and environmental and scientific studies.

- Dec 23rd
nickbrand Posted by nickbrand
23rd December 2002ce

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