Amateur archaeologists shine a light on thousands of years of Dumfries and Galloway’s history

Participants in a community archaeology project have made discoveries that confirm people lived on what is now the Threave Estate during the Mesolithic period.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 4:46 pm
Can You Dig It volunteers enjoying their work at Threave in 2019.
Can You Dig It volunteers enjoying their work at Threave in 2019.

The Galloway Glens project Can You Dig It carried out a 10-day dig on the National Trust for Scotland’s Threave Garden and Estate in the summer of 2019.

They unearthed many finds at the time, including a lead shot from the 16th to 18th century and some flints from the late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age.

However, since then, some of the carbonised material recovered has been sent away for radiocarbon dating at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC), and the dates they have revealed are fascinating.

It has long been known Little Wood Hill was the location of a significant archaeological site, but it wasn’t until work carried out in 2014 that the enclosure was revealed to date back to the Iron Age.

The Can You Dig It excavation sought to build on this work, while at the same time transferring key technical skills to volunteers.

A sample recovered by the volunteers has now been dated to between AD 75 to 214 – firmly comfirming Iron Age occupation.

However, it was the unearthing of a tiny burnt hazelnut shell that has caused more excitement. This has now been dated to between 8,547 and 8,312 BC – evidence of human activity on the Threave Estate from the Mesolithic period.

Claire Williamson of Rathmell Archaeology, who is delivering Can You Dig, said: “Having the Iron Age date of the enclosure confirmed was what we were hoping for, but to also have this small indication of Mesolithic life on the estate is amazing.

"This could not have been possible without the hard work of the volunteers, who’s enthusiasm for the archaeology never faltered, even in high winds! It’s great to see how, even at this stage, the results of their hard work continue to add to our archaeological knowledge of the area.”

Dr Samuel Gallacher, operations manager for the Threave Garden and Estate, added: “We love to surprise our many visitors with unexpected discoveries and stories at Threave and finding out about this new evidence of our very ancient history will no doubt fascinate many.”