Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Resource Assessment

Edited by Trevor Kirk and Charles Johns with contributions from Kevin Camidge, Dan Charman, Ian Dennis, Ralph Fyfe, Andy M Jones, Steve Mills, Jacqui Mulville, Amelia Pannett, Paul Rainbird, Helen M Roberts, and Robert Scaife.

3.1       Introduction

The main characteristics of Scilly’s Palaeolithic and Mesolithic resource are summarised in this review. These periods make brief cameo appearances in earlier assessments of Scilly’s archaeological resource but, until recently, have produced scant archaeological and environmental evidence by comparison with Scilly’s post-Mesolithic prehistory (Ashbee 1986; Ratcliffe 1989; Ratcliffe and Straker 1996; Johns et al 2004). However, the depth and quality of environmental data, especially for the Mesolithic, has been substantially improved by the results of the Lyonesse Project (Charman et al 2016). The Neolithic Stepping Stones project’s excavations at Old Quay, St Martin’s, in 2013 and 2014 recovered 57 microliths with possible Continental affinities (Anderson-Whymark et al 2015; Garrow and Sturt 2017) and there is emerging evidence for other Mesolithic flintworking to supplement the Old Quay material (Pannett 2007). The main characteristics of Scilly’s Palaeolithic (c 700,000 to 10,000 BP) and Mesolithic (c 10,000 to 6,000 BP) resource are summarised in this review.

3.2        Palaeolithic (c 700,000 – 10,000 BP)

3.2.1   Landscape and environmental background

Current knowledge of the Palaeolithic environmental background of Scilly was summarised for SWARF (Hosfield et al 2008, 27). The earliest pollen evidence for vegetation in the Devensian in south-west England is from Scilly and published by Scourse (1985; 1986; 1991) as part of his research investigating the extension of the Irish Sea glacier. Formerly it was thought that glacial ice did not spread as far as the south of England in the last glacial episode (c 21,000 BP) but his research suggests that it reached the northern flanks of Tresco, Bryher and St Martin’s. The resulting glacial deposits include flint (originally from the Irish Sea floor) that was subsequently exploited by prehistoric communities in Scilly.

Scourse also carried out pollen analyses on organic lenses thought to have accumulated in small lakes or ponds during the build-up of solifluxion of granitic head in Scilly. These are exposed in section at Carn Morval and Watermill Cove, St Mary’s, and Bread and Cheese Cove, St Martin’s, and the pollen suggested open, largely grassland-dominated herbaceous vegetation during the Upper Palaeolithic. Similar arctic tundra conditions were also identified in deposits from Porth Seal on St Martin’s. High pinus values were interpreted as evidence of climatic deterioration (cf Hosfield et al 2008, 28).

3.2.2   Palaeolithic archaeology

The only possible Palaeolithic artefact from Scilly is an unprovenanced curved-backed point held at the Royal Cornwall Museum (Truro). This piece may be an Upper Palaeolithic ‘penknife point’, such as are found in cave sites throughout Britain (Berridge and Roberts 1986, 8-9; Fig 3.1), although similar points are also known from Mesolithic contexts on the mainland.

This artefact is an intriguing indication that people were visiting the archipelago during the climatic improvements ahead of the Younger Dryas cold spell. The penknife point, a member of the continental Federmessergruppen, ought to date to between 12,000 and 11,000 BP, after Scilly had become separated from the mainland. The distribution of earlier Upper Palaeolithic material from the Aurignacian (31,000 BP), has led Paul Pettit (2008) to propose a small-scale colonisation event taking in the west of Cornwall, presumably including Scilly, thus allowing for the possibility of finds from that period, although there is currently no other evidence of human presence in Scilly during the Palaeolithic.

Fig 3.1 The unprovenanced penknife point from Scilly (photo: Anna Tyacke).

3.2.3   The Isles of Scilly resource: aspects and prospects

The palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental evidence from Watermill Cove Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), St Mary’s, is indicative of the potential for sites primarily known (or designated) for their geological qualities to illuminate the Palaeolithic environment and climate in Scilly. Extreme serendipity might also lead such sites to yield Palaeolithic material culture and/or fauna.

3.3       Mesolithic (c 10,000-6000 BP)

3.3.1   Landscape

The sub-surface bathymetry between the Isles of Scilly and Penwith, Cornwall, suggests that the archipelago may have been surrounded by the sea as early as c 12,000 BP (13,130–12,700 cal BC). Rocks, such as the Seven Stones, and one or two others that are currently largely submerged, would have remained as islands for some millennia. Although this hypothesis is untested, a possible Late Glacial or Early Postglacial separation raises interesting questions related to island biogeography. The unusual small mammal fauna goes some way to support early island status. Pernetta and Hanford (1970) and Turk (in Butcher 1978, 99) discussed the apparently relict Postglacial survival of the root vole (Microtus oeconomus) and the presence of the Scilly Shrew (Crocidura suaveolens), which is only found on the Islands (cf Hosfield et al 2008, 27).

Current evidence suggests that at the end of the last glaciation the archipelago may have consisted of a single landmass roughly 17km long and 8.5km wide stretching from the Western Rocks to the Eastern Isles and from Peninnis to Shipman Head. Palaeogeographic reconstructions by the Lyonesse Project indicate a rapid rise in sea-level during the late Mesolithic. The continuous land mass of Scilly that existed at 9000–7000 cal BC, including areas as far west as Annet and the Western Rocks, shows separation of St Agnes and these other western islands from the mainland by around 5000 cal BC, although part of the area between St Mary’s and St Agnes would have been tidal flats. The other significant change in the nature of the coastal environmental over this period was the development of more extensive intertidal zones in a number of locations. Prior to the opening of St Mary’s Sound, a significant intertidal area developed on the northern side of the Western Rocks and in the north-western part of St Mary’s Sound between St Agnes and St Mary’s. While the main islands were still a single land mass until about 4000 cal BC, extensive intertidal areas were present in St Mary’s Road, west of Samson, and also to the north east of St Mary’s out towards the Eastern Isles. Very extensive intertidal areas were present in the western side of St Mary’s Road throughout the period 6000–4000 cal BC (Charman et al 2016).

Fig 3.2 Inferred submergence model c 7,000 BC showing the distribution of Mesolithic sites. Based on data from the Lyonesse Project (Charman et al 2016) and shown as simulations of the modern Admiralty Chart. Land area (brown) is defined as above MHWS, and the intertidal area (green) as between chart datum and Mean High Water Springs(MHWS). Blue and white areas are below chart datum (dark blue 0 to-5 m CD, pale blue -5 to -10 m CD, white < -10 m CD).

3.3.2   Environmental background

Preceding work on the Mesolithic environmental background of Scilly was summarised by Hosfield et al (2008, 41) for SWARF. The longest pollen sequence was that at Higher Moors, with Late Mesolithic oak-ash and hazel woodland at the base of the sequence dated to 5725–5379 cal BC (HAR-3695; 6630±100). Birch scrub in this context may indicate woodland regeneration following small-scale clearance by gatherer-hunters. The Late Mesolithic-Early Neolithic intertidal peats at Par Beach on St Martin’s and at Porth Mellon on St Mary’s indicate mixed deciduous woodland with birch, oak, hazel, lime, holly, alder and willow (Scaife 1984; Ratcliffe and Straker 1996; Hosfield et al 2008, 41).

Samples of intertidal peat taken from Porth Hellick, St Mary’s, in September 2010 for the Lyonesse Project suggest that significant tree cover had developed by 9637–9281cal BC (SUERC-32915; 9915±35 BP), within perhaps a few hundred years of the start of the Holocene at about 9900–9500 cal BC or 11,700±99 years before AD 2000 (Charman et al 2016; Walker et al 2008).

The Porth Hellick profile suggests that there was spatial diversity in vegetation in the earliest Holocene before major tree expansion, with higher levels of willow (Salix) compared to St Mary’s Road. Although the date of the tree expansion is ambiguous, there is no doubt it was rapid and both the Porth Hellick and St Mary’s Road cores show a simultaneous expansion of oak (Quercus) and hazel (Corylus). Birch was a major associated species at St Mary’s Road but was less common at Porth Hellick. Both locations show the forest was quite diverse, however, with ivy (Hedera), mountain ash (Sorbus) and honeysuckle (Lonicera) all present (Charman et al 2016).

The character of the forest cover was with oak and hazel as dominant taxa with other species less common except in favourable locations. The arrival and expansion of hazel and oak at the same time is a perhaps a little unusual in the context of other sites in southern Britain, where oak often precedes hazel (Birks 1989). Hazel may well have spread by water transport up western coasts and arrived in Scilly at the same time as oak was continuing its steady migration into the south west after the last glacial (Birks 1989). The early environment on Scilly would have been a closed forest of oak-hazel with open areas in the low lying wetlands such as those at Porth Hellick and St Mary’s Road (Charman et al 2016). 

There is clear evidence of forest disturbance in the St Mary’s Road area from as early as 6600–6462 cal BC (SUERC-38100; 7695±35 BP) and repeatedly after 5980–5761 cal BC (SUERC-28995; 6980±35 BP) until perhaps until 4713–4547 cal BC (OxA-25690; 5784±33 BP). The more fragmentary evidence from Great English Island Neck, between St Martin’s and Nornour, is not sufficient to record sequences of disturbance and recovery similar to those in St Mary’s Road, but charcoal does occur in association with a transition to more open ground in several profiles there. It thus appears that fire was a frequent event in the Mesolithic woodland on Scilly and it is possible that this reflects Mesolithic woodland management for red deer (see section 3.3.4 below for further discussion). The disturbance led to temporary declines in oak, but favoured regrowth of birch and willow in St Mary’s Road (Fig 6.5). From c 6000 cal BC the forest composition became a little more diverse, with alder (Alnus), elm (Ulmus) and lime (Tilia) all present in low amounts, and sporadic occurrences of heather (Calluna), suggesting a diversification of the under storey. Ash (Fraxinus) is also present in the later sediments after 4703–4456 cal BC (OxA-23861; 5720±55 BP) (Charman et al 2016).  

Forest cover reduced quite rapidly from 5000 cal BC in St Mary’s Road and elsewhere. There is a very large reduction in oak at 5218–5017 cal BC (SUERC-40882; 6170±35 BP), but with little change in other tree taxa. Hazel declines rapidly at 5031–4841 cal BC (SUERC-38084; 6040±35 BP) but the final decline in tree cover is from birch woodland at 4457–4351 cal BC (OxA-25681; 5570±32 BP). These changes appear to have been partly associated with fire events, but they may also have been related to rising sea levels in these low-lying areas. Increases in sedges (Cyperaceae) suggest that woodland cover gave way to increasing wetland extent, rather than being replaced by dryland vegetation, and the initial decrease in oak occurs before the large charcoal peak that is associated with a decline in willow. Close to Nornour, burning is associated with an initial decline and recovery of birch cover but the final reduction in birch is correlated with an increase in the Chenopodiaceae, which includes several saltmarsh taxa, reflecting increasing maritime influence from sea-level rise. Thus the change from early Holocene woodland to open ground in the lowlands was apparently driven by the combined effects of human disturbance and burning and partly by changing hydrological conditions related to sea-level rise (Charman et al 2016).

Fig 3.3 Mesolithic submerged forest in St Mary’s Roads (photo: Kevin Camidge).    

3.3.3   Lithic evidence

Conventionally, it has been considered that Scilly was not permanently settled until the Bronze Age, with the presence of a few Mesolithic flints interpreted as representing rare seasonal visits from Cornwall by groups of hunter-gatherers in paddled boats (for example, Ratcliffe 1989; Ratcliffe and Johns 2003). Paul Ashbee reviewed the evidence for Mesolithic occupation of Scilly in the Silver Jubilee volume of Cornish Archaeology (1986, 195–6), noting the lack of distinctive lithic material from the Islands but stressing the impacts of later prehistoric sea-level rises. He also emphasised the apparent persistence on Scilly of an essentially ‘Mesolithic’ subsistence economy based on the exploitation of marine and seashore resources – fishing, fowling, marine hunting and deer exploitation – into later prehistory, this pattern of subsistence being similar to that found on the majority of British insular sites.

Until recently the artefactual evidence had not increased greatly since the Mesolithic period review by Peter Berridge and Alison Roberts in the same volume (1986), the most important discovery being the 20 or so pieces of flint collected from the cliff face at Old Quay, on the south coast of St Martin’s. This is the only identified Mesolithic flint-working site on the Islands (Ratcliffe 1989, 33; 1994, 13). St Martin’s is the island closest to the mainland and this part of the archipelago is likely to have been the first landfall for voyagers from Cornwall. Old Quay is located in a sheltered position in the lee of Cruther’s Hill, it occupies a terrace overlooking the central flats to the south and is not far from the excellent source of glacial pebble flint around White Island (Fig 8.3) and Great Bay on the more exposed northern side of St Martin’s (cf Anderson-Whymark et al 2015, 961).

Two diagnostic flints recovered from the cliff section at Old Quay in 2012 were identified as trapezoidal microliths dating to the Early Mesolithic (8500–6000 cal BC), according to the classifications by Clark (1934) and Butler (2005) (Fig 8.2). The similarity between the two is remarkable and they may have been made by the same person (Dennis et al 2013).

Location Artefact type
Higher Town, St Martin’s A single platform core
Old Quay, St Martin’s 59+ microliths (assemblages from eroding cliff-face combine Mesolithic and Neolithic flints and Early Neolithic Hembury-style Ware pottery)
Knackyboy Carn, St Martin’s Borer-needle in association with flints in rock cleft
The Brow, Bryher A Mesolithic or Neolithic blade and other flints
The Town, Bryher A Mesolithic or Neolithic bladelet
Veronica Farm, Bryher Possible tranchet axe sharpening blade
New Grimsby, Tresco Possible Mesolithic or Early Neolithic bladelet
Halangy Down, St Mary’s Geometric microlith
Porthcressa, St Mary’s Unfinished pecking hammer
Klondyke Fields, St Mary’s Two blades with facetted butts
Newford Farm, St Mary’s Probable broken blade microlith and a blade
Unprovenanced flints Broken blade microlith, obliquely blunted point

Table 3.1 Mesolithic flints from Scilly (based on Anderson-Whymark et al 2015, table 1).

In 2013 and 2014, excavations at Old Quay, St Martin’s, by the Neolithic Stepping Stones project, which was investigating the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition within the western seaways of Britain, recovered 57 comparable microliths within a much larger spread of 5738 pieces of prehistoric worked flint from the small fields behind the cliff. The artefact scatter was contained within the ploughsoil and subsoil and residually within later features. No features dating to the Mesolithic period were identified (Garrow and Sturt 2017). The microliths are considered to fall within the trapèze à bases décalées and trapèze rectangle court classifications. Intriguingly, no parallels have so far been found in any other Mesolithic assemblage from Britain or Ireland and the closest affinities are with examples found in north-east France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark dating to the Late – Final Mesolithic, c 6000–5500 cal BC (Anderson-Whymark et al 2015).

This interpretation obviously poses important questions about both the origins of Scilly’s Mesolithic population and maritime mobility and cross-Channel contacts during the Mesolithic. However, it should be noted that the majority of flint scatters in Cornwall have not seen any kind of analysis, let alone publication, making it difficult to make meaningful comparisons between these microliths from Scilly and potentially contemporary assemblages on the mainland (Andy M Jones, pers comm).

The new lithic evidence points to a definite Mesolithic presence on Scilly but there is not yet enough data available to assess whether the Islands supported a permanent all-year-round hunter-gatherer community. Scilly is rich in natural resources but was a comparatively small island and getting there involved a short but dangerous and daunting journey on the open Atlantic. The Early Mesolithic landmass was only approximately 80 sq km in area and according to predicted population densities for hunter-gatherers in an area of this size five to eight individuals would be low and nine to 16 would be high (Gamble et al 1999; Binford 2001; Warren 2015, fig 4.1). Significant Mesolithic activity is currently only represented by the one site at Old Quay but there is a large quantity of flint present and we cannot really say how many people created it and over what length of time (Duncan Garrow, pers comm). It is also possible that further sites in Scilly await discovery or have been lost to rising sea levels (cf Warren 2015; Thomas 1985, 105).

Other remote island groups in the British Isles (for example, the Western and Northern Isles of Scotland) are beginning to produce more evidence of Mesolithic occupation (Saville 2000; Wickham Jones and Firth 2000; Melton and Nicholson 2004; 2007; Gregory et al 2005). Evidence from elsewhere in Britain implies a specialized coastal economy at an early stage in the Mesolithic and high reliance on marine protein by individuals (Pérez-Fernández 2013, 147). On some islands and coastal sites substantial shell middens, rich in marine and terrestrial detritus, attest to long-term and intensive Mesolithic occupation: Oronsay in the Outer Hebrides, for example (Mellars and Andrews 1987; Schulting and Richards 2002), or Culver Well on the Isle of Portland, Dorset (Palmer 1999). So far no middens like these have been found on Scilly (or in Cornwall). It is possible that they were part of a localised expression of Mesolithic identity peculiar to these other places, but if such middens formerly existed in Scilly or on the Cornish mainland it is highly probable that they would have been lost to historic sea-level rise.

Fig 3.4 Test pitting by the Neolithic Stepping Stones project at Old Quay, St Martin’s, in September 2013 (Photograph: Hugo Anderson-Whymark).

3.3.4   Animals

In common with more northerly British outer island groups, and unlike the Channel Islands (e.g. Lister 1995), there is no evidence for pre-glacial fauna on Scilly.  Research suggests the Islands were periglacial during the Ice Age and, while there is the possibility of continuity for some terrestrial species (e.g. the Scilly Shrew), the survival of any other species remains unknown.  Even in the absence of terrestrial food species the Islands would have provided substantial marine resources for any early settlers.  There is recent evidence suggestive of human occupation as early as the sixth millennium cal BC from burning events in the pollen record (Charman et al 2016) and this date is in agreement with data from Scottish isles where even the more remote northerly island groups, with a similarly sparse terrestrial fauna, were inhabited (e.g. Shetland and Orkney). British inner islands and coastal sites have provided the best evidence for early human animal interactions through the direct reconstruction of diets using stable isotope analysis of skeletal remains. Analysis revealed that Mesolithic people who lived relatively close to the coast relied on a wide resource base, exploiting a significant proportion of marine and terrestrial foods (e.g. Schulting et al 2003).

Small numbers of deer bones, mostly belonging to red deer, have been found among many of the later Bronze Age faunal assemblages of Scilly. It remains unclear whether these deer were the descendants of a population which had become established before the Late-glacial or Early Postglacial separation of Scilly from the mainland, or whether they were transported to Scilly by early settlers to establish a breeding population, and if so, when (Ratcliffe and Straker 1996, 36–37, table 4).

Paul Ashbee (1982, 14) considered that an insular controlled deer economy seemed likely in Mesolithic Scilly, while Frank Turk identified some smaller red deer bones, Cervus elaphus, from the Middle Bronze Age settlement at Nornour which he suggested were evidence for an indigenous population of great antiquity (Turk 1971, 94; 1978, 100). Deliberate seeding of red deer populations has been argued for Late Mesolithic Ireland (Woodman and McCarthy 2003) and in Scotland there is also strong evidence for the translocation of red deer to islands from the Neolithic onwards to adapt island environments for human use (Mulville 2010). However, the current zooarchaeological and palaeoenvironmental evidence neither confirms nor denies that this was the case in Mesolithic Scilly.

3.3.5   Economy and subsistence

The identifiable Mesolithic flints indicate that fisher-gatherer-hunter peoples exploited the resources of the Islands. Coastal inundation is likely to inhibit the search for sites of this period but well-preserved submerged remains from the Mesolithic have been identified in the Solent. The evidence of domestic cattle in a midden at Ferriter’s Cove in south-west Ireland, dated to 4495-4195 cal BC, has been proposed as a seeding of stock by Late Mesolithic peoples in an environment where indigenous large mammals had not existed prior to human seaborne colonisation (Woodman and McCarthy 2003). Domesticated cattle would only have been available on the European continent, suggesting long-distance contacts by sea, necessitating the rounding of the South West peninsula, perhaps even via Scilly, and showing that as far back as the Mesolithic contact by sea was not by necessity with nearest neighbours. As in many of the Scottish islands, deliberate seeding of red deer has been argued for Late Mesolithic Ireland, but it has also been proposed that the people there were more reliant on marine resources than their neighbours across the Irish Sea. This may have been true for the seasonal visitors to Scilly in the Mesolithic too, perhaps continuing into the Neolithic. In this regard, it is important to note the discovery and excavation of wooden fish traps along the former Liffey estuary in modern Dublin, the traps consisting of staked fences and baskets (McQuade and O’Donnell 2007).

Scilly’s Mesolithic coastline would have provided myriad opportunities for fishing and hunting grounds for seals and sea birds but had a relatively narrow intertidal zone compared to later times, with the most extensive opportunities for shellfish foraging and fish trapping occurring in the south-western areas around Broad Sound and North Channel. By the end of the Mesolithic, extensive intertidal development had occurred around the fringes of the main northern island, especially in the slowly flooding area of St Mary’s Road, but also around the now separated St Agnes, Annet and Western Rocks. This transition in the coastal morphology could have led to a change in the main marine food sources in the later Mesolithic, with increasing access to food procured from foraging in intertidal areas.

3.3.6   Transport

No remains of prehistoric boats have been found in Scilly. The most likely type of boat used by Mesolithic adventurers to the Islands would have been hide boats made by stretching stitched-together animal skins over a lightweight framework of wood or wicker. This makes a very lightweight boat, which can be bowl- or boat-shaped. Hide boats vary in length from 1.5m (usually circular) to about 10m; 12m is the practical limit for this type of construction (McGrail 1998). Another common form of prehistoric boat is the log boat but European logboats are generally considered to be only suitable for use in extremely calm waters and not as seagoing craft (Ransley et al 2011). There is no evidence of mast steps or the use of oars in Europe until the middle of the first millennium BC: ‘Mesolithic and Neolithic seamen would have used paddles’ (McGrail 2001).

3.3.7   The Isles of Scilly lithics resource: aspects and prospects

In 2006 Amelia Pannett carried out an initial assessment of the lithics collection held by the Isles of Scilly Museum, as part of the ‘Islands in a Common Sea Project’ (Pannett 2007). Clear evidence for Mesolithic activity was present in the archive, with several collections of blades, many of which showed characteristic signs of Mesolithic technology: platform preparation and dorsal scar patterns indicative of the use of a carefully prepared blade core. Crested and truncated blades were also recognised, together with two roughly manufactured microliths (Pannett 2007).

Despite the unprovenanced character of the material examined in the lithic archive, it provided important details about the nature and potential of the resource on Scilly. The range of tools recovered by collectors is interesting and adds further to the current slight evidence for Mesolithic occupation in the Islands. Aside from the examination of excavated lithic assemblages, there are a number of known findspots which could be systematically investigated in order to recover complete in situ assemblages, in particular Old Quay on St Martin’s and a further scatter of lithics from a garden on the south side of the island. Both assemblages would benefit from assessment, perhaps using a test pitting strategy to determine the extent and nature of the in situ material. Fieldwalking in available fields could also be undertaken to identify further scatters and determine their distribution within the landscape.

It is possible that further Mesolithic flints from Scilly reside unidentified in museum collections (e.g. Royal Cornwall Museum, British Museum) and in private collections. Review of stone assemblages from Scilly by a lithic specialist may reveal previously unidentified Mesolithic material in existing museum archives and private collections. It is important that the results of such a review should be widely disseminated.

The Mesolithic material at Old Quay, St Martin’s, was surprising, both in terms of its character and the cross-Channel contacts it implied. As the authors pointed out ‘in order to move our understanding of the prehistoric past forwards, it is very important that we let the archaeological record surprise us sometimes, and incorporate the unexpected into our narratives’ (Garrow and Sturt 2017, 131). There is certainly considerable potential for carrying out further excavations at Old Quay.

3.3.8   Radiocarbon dates

The 49 radiocarbon determinations listed in Table 3.1 have all been calibrated using OxCal 4.3. Previous modelling of dates has not been used and all are expressed at the full 95.4% confidence level, rather than to the period to which the date may be weighted (for example at 89%). This means that the calibrated dates in the tables may vary significantly from the publications where they appear.

Lab Ref 14C age BP Cal BC @ 95% Site Context Reference
Q-2410   34,500+ 985 – 800 37559–36606 Porth Seal Organic deposit Scourse 1991
Q-2408   33,050+ 960 -800 35936–34571 Watermill Cove Organic deposit Scourse 1991
Q-2409   25,670+ 560 -530 28211–27561 Porth Seal Organic deposit Scourse 1991
Q-2356 24,490+ 960 -860 26836–26321 Carn Morval Organic deposit Scourse 1991
Q-2358 21,500+ 890 -800 24036–3673 Carn Morval Organic deposit Scourse 1991
SUERC-38109 11385 ±35 11354–11186 St Mary’s Roads Sediment humin fraction from submerged clay & peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-38108 11315 ±40 11312­–11131 St Mary’s Roads Sediment: humic acid from submerged clay & peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-38104 11035 ±35 11077–10833 St Mary’s Roads Sediment humin fraction from submerged clay & peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-38103 10950 ±35 10960–10761 St Mary’s Roads Sediment: humic acid from submerged clay & peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-38102 10670 ±35 10757–10622 St Mary’s Roads Sediment humin fraction from submerged clay & peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-38101 10535±35 10656–10459 St Mary’s Roads Sediment: humic acid from submerged clay & peat Charman et al 2016
OxA-23858 9945 ±60 9746–9283 Porth Hellick Wood: single twig fragment, 19cm below surface of intertidal peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-32915 9915 ±35 9637–9281 Porth Hellick Wood: unidentified twig, 24cm below surface of intertidal peat Charman et al 2016
OxA-25790 9185±45 8542–8293 Great English Island Neck (Nornour Channel) Charcoal, knotted wood fragment too distorted for identification, 0–1cm below surface of submerged peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-40873 8740 ± 35 7939–7614 St Mary’s Roads Organic clay: humin fraction from submerged clay & peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-40872 8375 ± 35 7528–7354 St Mary’s Roads Organic clay: humic acid from submerged clay & peat Charman et al 2016
OxA-25612 7490 ± 45 6436–6250 St Mary’s Roads Plant remains, indet. possible stem fragments from submerged clay & peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-38100 7695 ±35 6600–6462 St Mary’s Roads Sediment humin fraction from submerged clay & peat Charman et al l 2016
SUERC-38099 7500±35 6441–6254 St Mary’s Roads Sediment humic acid, from submerged clay & peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-28995 6980 ±35 5980–5761 St Mary’s Roads Peat: humic acid,  27–28cm below surface of submarine peat Charman et al 2016
HAR-3695 6630±100 5725­–5379 Higher Moors Peat Scaife 1984
SUERC-40883 6325 ± 35 5371–5219 St Mary’s Roads Peat: humic acid, 20–21cm below surface of submarine peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-40884 6315 ± 35 5361­–5220 St Mary’s Roads As SUERC -40883 Charman et al 2016
SUERC-26629 6230 ±35 5304 –5066 St Mary’s Roads Wood (Betula sp.) embedded in ?eroded  surface submarine peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-32919 6215 ±35 5298–5059 Great English Island Neck (Nornour Channel) Monocot stems, Phragmites? 2 cm below surface of submerged peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-28994 6175±30 5218–5038 St Mary’s Roads Wood (Alnus glutinosa) just below upper charcoal peak Charman et al 2016
SUERC-40877 6170 ± 35 5218 –5017 St Mary’s Roads Peat: humic acid, 11–12cm below surface of submarine peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-40882 6170 ± 35 5218 –5017 St Mary’s Roads Peat humin fraction, 14–15cm below surface of submarine peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-40881 6160 ± 35 5214 –5010 St Mary’s Roads Peat: humic acid, 14–15cm below surface of submarine peat Charman et al 2016
OxA-25613 6130 ±40 5211–4962 Great English Island Neck (Nornour Channel) c 30 monocot ?stem fragments, 1 cm below surface of submerged peat Charman et al 2016
OxA-22484 6134±34 5211–4989 St Mary’s Roads Wood (Betulaceae) embedded in submarine peat 14–15cm below surface. Major decline in tree pollen Charman et al 2016
SUERC-40876 6120 ± 35 5208–4958 St Mary’s Roads Peat: humic acid, 11–12cm below surface of submarine peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-38084 6040±35 5031–4841 St Mary’s Roads Monocot stem fragments + wood fragments, 27–28cm below surface of submerged peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-28993 6010±35 4996–4802 St Mary’s Roads Leaf (Phragmites sp.) from seabed peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-40875 6010±35 4996– 4802 St Mary’s Roads Peat: humic acid  1–2cm below surface of submarine  peat Charman et al 2016
OxA-25614 5995 ±40 4991–4791 Great English Island Neck (Nornour Channel) 2 monocot ?stem fragments, 5-6 cms below surface of submerged peat Charman et al l 2016
SUERC-40874 5965±35 4944–4730 St Mary’s Roads Peat: humic acid, as SUERC-40875 Charman et al 2016
SUERC-26631 5860±35 4826–4617 St Mary’s Roads Wood (Salix sp.) from submarine peat Charman et al 2016
OxA-25690 5784±33 4713–4547 St Mary’s Roads Wood (cf Salix/Populus sp.) 21–22cm below surface of submerged peat Charman et al 2016
OxA-23861 5720 ±55 4703–4456 St Mary’s Roads Unidentified woody stems, 9-10 cms below surface of submarine peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-26630 5680 ±35 4614–4406 St Mary’s Roads Leaf: cf Phragmites sp. embedded in surface of ?eroded submarine peat Charman et al 2016
GU-5061 5210±50 4230–3947 Par Beach Base of intertidal peat deposit Ratcliffe and Straker 1996
OxA-21892 5614 ±37 4520–4359 St Mary’s Roads Leaf: cf Phragmites sp. (D Charman) – not the same leaf as SUERC-26630. Embedded in surface of ?eroded submarine peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-38241 5590 ± 30 4486–4354 St Mary’s Roads Twig and seeds (Betula),  9–10cm below surface of submerged peat Charman et al 2016
OxA-25681 5570±32 4457–4351 St Mary’s Roads Wood (?Betula, not oak). As SUERC-38241 Charman et al 2016
GU-5222 5410±70 4366–4046 Par Beach Oak in surface of intertidal peat Ratcliffe and Straker 1996
SUERC-32918 5445 ±30 4349–4251 St Mary’s Roads Bulk: Phragmites stems, 9-10 cms below surface of submarine peat Charman et al 2016
OxA-25680 5435±32 4345–4241 St Mary’s Roads Wood (?Betula, not oak), 2–2.5cm below surface of submerged peat Charman et al 2016
SUERC-32917 5360±30 4326–4056 St Mary’s Roads Wood (unidentified stem fragment), 0-1cm below surface of submarine peat Charman et al l2016

Table 3.2 List of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic radiocarbon dates.

3.3.9   OSL dating

Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating was carried out on quartz from an intertidal sample recovered from Porth Hellick and Porth Mellon, both on St Mary’s (Roberts and Marshall, in Charman et al 2016).

Location Lab no. Context Material OSL Age Calibrated date (95% confidence
Porth Hellick, St Mary’s 184/LPPH-1A 0.16 ± 0.01m Quartz 12970 ±690 BP* 12350–9580 cal BC
Porth Mellon, St Mary’s 161/LPPM1-1 15–17cm below surface of intertidal peat Quartz 4750 ±1210 BP* 5170–3210 cal BC

Table 3.3 List of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic OSL Ages expressed as years before AD 2010, rounded to the nearest 10 years.