Professor Steven Mithen of Reading University has been leading teams of archaeologists to the Southern Hebrides in general, and Islay in particular, for many years. Last year we were able to host his group at The Academy in Bruichladdich, and while they were unfortunately unable to stay with us again this year, they were able to take a few hours off from digging to tour the distillery with our general manager, Duncan McGillivray.
The ongoing project has seen them open a trench on the east coast this year, in a spectacular location overlooking the Sound of Islay. Originally discovered by DJ MacPhee who is head keeper at Dunlossit Estate, a preliminary evaluation of the site suggests that this may be extremely exciting. They appear to be excavating a very old occupation horizon, one that may be as old as any yet found in Scotland. This would have been created by Mesolithic or ‘Middle Stone Age’ people around eleven thousand years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age.
Scotland’s first people were nomadic with a highly mobile lifestyle, moving with the seasons and following game and fish. They made their toolkits from stone and wood and antler and probably did not have permanent shelters in which to live.