When a gamekeeper was employed to release his pigs to clear out some bracken at a local port on Islay (east coast of Scotland), little did he know that his ‘herd’ would make a significant historical discovery. But as it turns out, the pigs gloriously munched upon the scrubs that were covering man-made stone tools for over 12,000 years. In essence, the animals unintentionally discovered evidence that directly points to a 12,000-year prehistoric human population that inhabited the islet. And interestingly, the previous evidence that pertained to the earliest human habitation in the area was dated from only 9,000 years ago.
The investigation in question was carried out by two archaeologists Steven Mithen and Karen Wicks (both from the University of Reading), when they were informed of the accidental ‘unearthing’ by the pigs. As a result, they analysed the site (including Rubha Port an t-Seilich) and its proximate places, and found a range of historical objects from the areas. Most of these artifacts dates from variant time periods, and included items like crystal quartz tools, remains of animal bones, spatula-like equipment and even a well-made fireplace.
When these artifacts were further assessed, the archaeologists made notes about the particular type of tools and their specific craftsmanship. From these examinations, they have put forth their hypothesis that the objects are ‘German’ made, and probably belonged to the Ahrensburgian and Hamburgian cultures. These people had their origins in what is now northern Germany. So the hunter-gatherer group might have crossed into Britain during the Late Glacial Period, when the British island was still connected to continental Europe via the so-called ‘Doggerland’ landmass (which is now submerged beneath the North Sea).
According to the researchers, the connecting landmass back then would have exhibited an expanse of frozen tundra with a flora of grass patches, shrubs and dwarf birches. As for the fauna, the area (including western Scotland) possibly showcased a profusion of reindeer along with seals, otters and basking sharks. In fact, the predominance of the reindeer population allowed the population to make use of their hunting skills, and as such every part of the animal was used – ranging from its bones to meat.
Interestingly, the availability of such natural resources might have even sustained a previous Neanderthal population – as is conjectured from the evidences of an inhabited cave in North Wales that dates from 230,000 years ago. Furthermore, Felix Reide of Aarhus University – who is an expert on Late Glacial Period, hypothesizes that the hunter-gatherer group in question here might have even developed maritime technology (like boats and sea-navigation) that helped them to reach the remote corners of the British isles.