Prior to the find, the oldest evidence of human occupation in Scotland could be dated to around 13,000 years ago at a now-destroyed cave site in Argyll, northwest Scotland.
Similar to finds from northern Germany and southern Denmark
Dating to the very earliest part of the late-glacial period, Howburn is likely to represent the first settlers in Scotland. The flint tools are strikingly close in design to similar finds in northern Germany and southern Denmark from the same period, a link which has helped experts to date them.
The new findings were revealed by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs in her speech at the Institute for Archaeologists’ annual conference, which is this year taking place in Glasgow. The definitive findings will be published next year in a report funded by Historic Scotland.
Pursuit of game
The hunters who left behind the flint remains at Howburn came into Scotland in pursuit of game, probably herds of wild horses and reindeer, at a time when the climate improved following the previous severe glacial conditions. Glacial conditions returned once more around 13,000 years ago and Scotland was again depopulated, probably for another 1000 years, after which new groups with different types of flint tools make their appearance.
Connections not yet well understood
The nature of the physical connections made between the peoples in Scotland, Germany and southern Denmark is not yet understood. However the similarity in the design of the tools from the two regions offers tantalising glimpses of connections across what would have been dry land, now drowned by the North Sea.
Alan Saville, President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Senior Curator, Earliest Prehistory at the National Museums of Scotland and a specialist in the study of flaked flint and stone tools said: “These tools represent a real connection with archaeological finds in north-west Germany, southern Denmark and north-west Holland, a connection not seen elsewhere in Britain at this time. This discovery is both intriguing and revolutionises our ideas about where humans came from in this very early period. In southern Britain, early links are with northern France and Belgium. Howburn is just one chance discovery and further such discoveries will no doubt emerge.”
Past Horizons. 2014. “14,000 year old flint tools: Earliest human occupation of Scotland”. Past Horizons. Posted: April 9, 2014. Available online: http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/04/2014/14000-year-old-flint-tools-from-earliest-human-occupation-of-scotland