Evening Meeting : talk by Dr. Richard Carter on the Mesolithic period

At the last meeting we had a complete change from geology. Dr. Richard Carter gave us a brief insight to his field of work covering interactions between humans and the environment during the Mesolithic Period.

In order to understand human behaviour at that time it is necessary to understand the environment in which they found themselves. Humans colonised Britain hundreds of thousands of years ago but displacement and recolonisation occurred related to major glaciations and fluctuating ice-sheets with the final (Devensian) Ice-Age ending about 10,500 years ago.

During the early Mesolithic warming temperatures led to the melting of continental glaciers and a rise in sea level. This caused deltas and coastlines to be inundated and low lying land to be flooded. The warmer climate also encouraged a change in vegetation with the development of pre-boreal forests of pine, birch and alder. This was an open landscape. Over time the pre-boreal forest was replaced by boreal type consisting of more deciduous species like hazel, oak and lime with the pines being forced to higher and drier areas. Dense forests with occasional breaks now occurred. By the time of the late Mesolithic temperatures were equivalent to what we experience today and the forests were dense. Throughout this time the changing environment meant changes in the flora and fauna which formed the diet of Mesolithic peoples. This in turn led to the development of new methods and tools for hunting such as the microliths for fixing onto harpoons and spears.

Throughout the Mesolithic the rising sea levels eventually saw the land-bridge which connected Britain to the rest of Europe disappear and Britain became the island it is today.

Dr. Carter also gave a short explanation of modelling hunter-gatherer mobility as this can allow inferences about occupation patterns and types of sites that are used. It may also help to distinguish between long and short term occupation.
This was a fascinating and informative talk.

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday June 20th when member Tony Thorp will give a talk entitled, “ The Geology of Arran”.