Orkney arrowheads find points to Scotland's earliest settlement

THEY may look like just a collection of broken stones, but the finds made in a field in Orkney might be evidence of the earliest settlement in Scotland.

Two flint "tanged points" or arrowheads found on the island of Stronsay are thought to have been used by hunters between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago, just after the Ice Age.

The arrowheads were found among a collection of scattered artefacts, including bladed tools, on a farm by Naomi Woodward and a team of MA students on an archaeology course at Orkney College. The discoveries were made during a two-week research trip in April, but have just been made public.

Two points from the late upper Paleolithic period (13-10,000BC) had previously been found in Orkney, at Ness of Brodgar, and on Stronsay - but both were lost in the 1920s.

Ms Woodward said: "I had been out there a couple of times and the landscape for archaeology is quite minimal compared to the rest of Orkney; not a lot has been made of it.

"The tanged flint points are signs of a very early archaeology, which at this moment is not particularly understood in Orkney or Scotland.

"They are probably hunting implements, most likely mounted and used as projectile points.

"We think they could be early Mesolithic or late Paleolithic, so maybe from 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.

"It would be just after the Ice Age and there have been European examples of these kind of points."

In 2001, a team from an Edinburgh University project called Scotland's First Settlers confirmed that a shell midden found at Sand, near Applecross in Wester Ross, was used 9,500 years ago, making the site one of the earliest dated human occupations in Scotland.

An encampment at Cramond, near Edinburgh, has also been dated to 8,500BC.

It is also known that settlements of people were established in the west of Scotland around this time from discoveries at another site, at Kinloch on the island of Rum.

Ms Woodward is reluctant to claim that the Stronsay site is the earliest, but said: "If we have a site that these items are found in context, then it could be.

"But, at the moment, they are only surface finds - although it seems we have an assemblage of pieces from individual chance finds that relate to each other.

"The next step now is to see if we have actually got a site beneath this."

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