A tanged point and two blade technologies from Rubha Port an t-Seilich, Isle of Islay, western Scotland


  • Inger Marie Berg-Hansen Museum of Cultural History
  • Karen Wicks University of Reading
  • Steven Mithen University of Reading




We describe a tanged point and a blade technology from Rubha Port an t-Seilich, Isle of Islay, Scotland that provides further support to a Late Pleistocene or Early Holocene presence in Scotland prior to the establishment of the narrow blade Mesolithic industry. The existing evidence for a Late Pleistocene or early Holocene presence comes from isolated finds of tanged points (Tiree, Shieldig, Brodgar), undated assemblages from disturbed contexts that are most likely Late Pleistocene in date (Howburn, Kilmefort Cave), and undated assemblages containing broad blade microliths (e.g., Glenbatrick, Morton). This article provides a summary of recent excavations and the stratigraphy at Rubha Port an t-Seilich, and a detailed analysis the lithic blade blank production at the site, which is, we believe, the first application of a chaîne opératoire based approach to a Scottish assemblage. The study includes comparisons with contemporary assemblages from north-western Europe. The significance of the Rubha Port an t-Seilich finds is threefold: (1) the relative large size of the assemblage that allows a technological analysis; (2) the finds partially derive from a stratified context below a narrow blade assemblage, associated with radiocarbon dates 9301-7750 cal. BP; and (3) further excavation can increase the sample size and potentially expose an in situ Late Pleistocene or early Holocene cultural horizon.

Author Biography

Inger Marie Berg-Hansen, Museum of Cultural History

Museum of Cultural History
University of Oslo
P.O. Box 6762 St.Olavs plass
NO-0130 Oslo


Ashmore, P.J., 2004, A date list (to October 2002) for early foragers in Scotland. In: Mesolithic Scotland and Its Neighbours (Savellie, A., Ed.), Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh: p. 95-157.
Ballin, T.B. & Saville, A. 2003, An Ahrensburgian-type tanged point from Shieldaig, ester Ross, Scotland, and its implications. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 22: 115-131. doi:10.1111/1468-0092.t01-1-00001
Ballin, T.B., Saville, A., Tipping, R. & Ward, T. 2010, An Upper Palaeolithic flint and chert assemblage from Howburn Farm, South Lanarkshire, Scotland: first results. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 22: 323-360. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0092.2010.00352.x
Ballin, T.B. & Wickham-Jones, C.R. 2017, Searching for the Scottish Late Upper Palaeolithic: A case study from Nethermills Farm, Aberdeenshire. Journal of Lithic Studies, 4(1): 15 p. doi:10.2218/jls.v4i1.1907
Ballin, T.B., Saville, A. Tipping, R., Ward, T., Housley, R., Verrill, L. Bradley, M., Wilson, C., Lincoln, P. and MacLead, A. 2018, Reindeer Hunters at Howburn Farm, South Lanarkshire. Oxford: Archaeopress, 144 p.
Berg-Hansen, I. M. 2017, Den sosiale teknologien - teknologi og tradisjon i Nord-Europa ved slutten av istida, 10 900-8500 f.Kr. (unpublished) PhD thesis, University of Oslo, Oslo, 632 p. (in Norwegian) ("The Social Technology – Technology and Tradition in Northern Europe by the End of the Ice Age, 10 900-8500 BC")
Berg-Hansen, I. M. 2018, Chapter 4. Continuity and change in Late Glacial and Postglacial social networks; knowledge transmission and blade production methods in Ahrensburgian and Early Mesolithic North West Europe. In: The Technology of Early Settlement in Northern Europe - Transmission of Knowledge and Culture.(Vol. 2) (Knutsson, K., Knutsson, H., Apel, J., & Glørstad, H., Eds.), Equinox press, Sheffield, p. 63-98.
Berg-Hansen, I. M. 2019, Alt Duvenstedt LA121 revisited - blade technology in Ahrensburg culture. In: The Final Palaeolithic of Northern Eurasia. Proceedings of the Amersfoort, Schleswig and Burgos UISPP Commission Meetings. (Eriksen, B.V., Rensink, E., & Harris, S. Eds.), Ludwig, Kiel, p. 169-191.
Coles, J.M. 1971, The early settlement of Scotland: Excavations at Morton, Fife. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 37: 284-366.
Conneller, C., Bayliss, A., Milner, N. and Taylor, B. 2016, The resettlement of the British landscape: towards a chronology of lithic assemblage types. Internet Archaeology, 42. Accessed: 13/03/2017. doi:10.11141/ia.42.11
Conneller, C., Little, A., Garcia-Diaz, V. & Croft, S. 2018, The Worked Flint. In: Star Carr Volume 2: Studies in Technology, Subsistence and Environment (Milner, N., Conneller, C. & Taylor, B., Eds.), White Rose University Press, York: p. 493-534. doi:10.22599/book2.u
Damlien, H. 2015, Striking a difference? The effect of knapping techniques on blade attributes. Journal of Archaeological Science, 63: 122-135. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2015.08.020
Damlien, H. 2016, Between tradition and adaption. Long-term trajectories of lithic tool-making in south Norway during the postglacial colonization and its aftermath (c. 9500-7500 cal. BC). (unpublished) PhD thesis, Museum of Archaeology, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, 570 p.
Damlien, H., Berg-Hansen, I.M., Zagorska, I., Kalniņš, M., Nielsen, S.V., Koxvold, L.U., Bērziņš, V. & Schülke, A. 2018, A Technological crossroads: Exploring diversity in the pressure blade technology of Mesolithic Latvia. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 37(3): 229-246. doi:10.1111/ojoa.12139
David, E., & Sørensen, M. 2016, First insights into the identification of bone and antler tools used in the indirect percussion and pressure techniques during the early postglacial. Quaternary International, 423(22): 123-142. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2015.11.135
Eriksen, B. V. 2000, “Chaîne opératoire” - den operative proces og kunsten at tænke som en flinthugger. In: Flintstudier. En håndbog i systematiske analyser af flintinventarer (Eriksen, B.V., Ed.), Aarhus universitetsforlag, Aarhus: p. 75-100. (in Danish) ("“Chaîne opératoire” – the operative process and the art of thinking like a flint knapper")
Finlay, N., Finlayson, B., & Mithen, S. 2000, The primary technology: its character and inter-site variability. In: Hunter-Gatherer Landscape Archaeology. The Southern Hebrides Mesolithic Project 1988-98. Vol. 2 (Mithen, S., Ed.), McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge: p. 547-569.
Inizan, M.-L., Reduron-Ballinger, M., Roche, H., & Tixier, J. 1999, Technology and Terminology of Knapped Stone. (Préhistoire de la Pierre Taillée Vol. 5. Cercle de Recherches et d'Etudes Préhistoriques, Nanterre, 189 p.
Jamieson, E. 2019, Location map of RPAS [JPEG]. OS Terrain 5 [DWG geospatial data], Scale 1:10000, Tiles: nr46nw, Updated: 3 July 2018, Ordnance Survey (GB), Using: EDINA Digimap Ordnance Survey Service, <https://digimap.edina.ac.uk>, Downloaded: October 2018. OS Terrain 50 [SHAPE geospatial data], Scale 1:50000, Tiles: nr15, nr16 nr24, nr25, nr26, nr27, nr33, nr34, nr35, nr36, nr37, nr38, nr44, nr45, nr46, nr47, nr48, nr56, nr57, nr58, Updated: 24 July 2017, Ordnance Survey (GB), Using: EDINA Digimap Ordnance Survey Service, <http://digimap.edina.ac.uk>, Downloaded: November 2017
Madsen, B. 1992, Hamburgkulturens flintteknologi i Jels. In: Istidsjægere ved Jelssørene. Hamburgkulturen i Danmark (Holm, J., & Rieck, F. Eds.), Haderslev: Skrifter fra Museumsrådet for Sønderjyllands Amt, Haderslec: p. 93-131. (in Danish) ("The flint technology of the Hamburgian culture")
Marshall, G.D. 2000a, The distribution of beach pebble flint in Western Scotland with reference to raw material use during the Mesolithic. In: Hunter-Gatherer Landscape Archaeology. The Southern Hebrides Mesolithic Project 1988-98. Vol. 1 (Mithen, S., Ed.), McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge: p. 75-77.
Marshall, G.D. 2000b, The distribution and character of flint beach pebbles on Islay as a source for Mesolithic chipped stone artefact production. In: Hunter-Gatherer Landscape Archaeology. The Southern Hebrides Mesolithic Project 1988-98. Vol. 1 (Mithen, S., Ed.), McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge: p. 79-90.
Mercer, J. 1974, Glenbatrick Waterhole, a micolithic site on the Isle of Jura. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 105: 9-32.
Mithen, S. (Ed.) 2000, Hunter-Gatherer Landscape Archaeology. The Southern Hebrides Mesolithic Project 1988-98. Volume 1 and 2. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge, NR OF PAGES.
Mithen, S., Wicks, K., Pirie, A., Riede, F., Lane, C., Banerjea, R., Cullen, V. Gittins, M & Pankhurst, N. 2015, A Lateglacial archaeological site in the far north-west of Europe at Rubha Port an t-Seilich, Isle of Islay, western Scotland: Ahrensburgian-style artefacts, absolute dating and geoarchaeology. Journal of Quaternary Science, 30(5): 396-416. doi:10.1002/jqs.2781
Pelegrin, J. 2000, Les techniques de débitage laminaire au Tardiglaciaire: critères de diagnose et quleques réflexions. In: L'Europe Centrale et Septentrionale au Tardiglaciaire. Actes de la Table-ronde internationale de Nemours, 13-16 mai 1997. Mémoires du Musée de Préhistoire d’Ile-de-France 7, Vol. 7. (Valentin, B., Bodu, P.,& Christensen, M. Eds.), Association pour la promotion de la recherche archéologique en Île-de-France, Nemours: p. 73-86. (in French) ("Blade production techniques in Late Glacial: the diagnostic criteria and some reflections")
Perdaen, Y., Crombé, P., & Sergant, J. 2008, Lithic technology and the cultural identity of Early Mesolithic groups. Current Anthropology, 49(2): 317-327. doi:10.1086/527438
Pitts, M. W., & Jacobi, R. M. 1979, Some aspects of change in flaked stone industries of the Mesolithic and Neolithic in southern Britain. Journal of Archaeological Science, 6: 163-177. doi:10.1016/0305-4403(79)90060-8
Reyner, M. 2005, Early Mesolithic Britain. Origins, Development and Directions. Archaeopress, Oxford, 160 p.
Rust, A. 1943, Die Alt- und Mittelsteinzeitlichen Funde von Stellmoor. Karl Wachholtz Verlag, Neumünster, 240 p. (in German) ("The Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Finds of Stellmoor")
Saville, A. 2004, The material culture of Mesolithic Scotland. In: Mesolithic Scotland and its Neighbours. The Early Holocene Prehistory of Scotland, its British and Irish Context, and some Northern European Perspectives (Saville, A., Ed.), Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh: p. 185-220. doi:10.1002/jqs.917
Saville, A. & Ballin, T.N. 2009, Upper Palaeolithic evidence from Kilmefort Cave, Argyll: A re-evaluation of the lithic assemblage. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 139: 9-45. URL: http://journals.socantscot.org/index.php/psas/article/view/9745
Saville, A., Hardy, K., Miket, R. and Ballin, T.B. (Eds.) 2012, An Corran, Staffin, Skye: A rockshelter with Mesolithic and later occupation. Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports (SAIR), Vol. 51. Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 101 p. URL: http://journals.socantscot.org/index.php/sair/issue/view/81
Schild, R. 1980, Introduction to Dynamic Technological Analysis of chipped stone assemblages. In: Unconventional Archaeology: New Approaches and Goals in Polish Archaeology (Schild, R., Ed.), Wrocław: Instytut Historii Kultury Materialnej (Polska Akademia Nauk), Zakład Narodowy im, Ossolińskich: p 57-87.
Sørensen, M. 2006a, The chaîne opératoire applied to Arctic archaeology. In: Proceedings of the SILA/NABO Conference on Arctic and North Atlantic Archaeology 2004 (Arneborg, J. & Grønnow, B., Eds.), Dynamics of Northern Societies. Proceedings of the SILA/NABO Conference on Arctic and North Atlantic Archaeology. National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen: p. 31-44.
Sørensen, M. 2006b, Rethinking the lithic blade definition: Towards a dynamic understanding. In: Skilled Production and Social Reproduction. Aspects of Traditional Stone-Tool Technologies. Proceedings of a Symposium in Uppsala, August 20–24, 2003 (Apel, J. & Knutsson, K., Eds.), Stone Studies Vol. 2. Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis (SAU), Uppsala: p. 277-296.
Sørensen, M. 2008, Spatial analysis by dynamic technological classification: A case study from the Palaeolithic - Mesolithic transition in Scandinavia. In: Technology in Archaeology. Proceeding of the SILA Workshop: The Study of Technology as a method for gaining insight into social and cultural aspects of Prehistory, Vol. 14 (Sørensen, M. & Desrosiers, P., Eds.), The National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen: p.107-124.
Sørensen, M. 2013, Dynamical technological classification of Scandinavian lithic blade industries. unpublished manuscript. Nordic Blade Technology Network. March 2013. 7 p.
Sørensen, M., Rankama, T., Kankaanpää, J., Knutsson, K., Knutsson, H., Melvold, S., Eriksen, B.V. & Glørstad, H. 2013, The first eastern migrations of people and knowledge into Scandinavia: Evidence from studies of Mesolithic technology, 9th-8th millennium BC. Norwegian Archaeological Review, 46: 1-38. doi:10.1080/00293652.2013.770416
Taute, W. 1968, Die Stielspitzen-Gruppen im Nördlichen Mittel-Europa. Böhlau Verlag, Köln & Graz, 326 p. (in German) ("The Tanged Point Groups in Northern Central Europe")
Waddington, C. 2015, Mesolithic re-colonisation of Britain following the drowning of North Sea landscapes. In: No Stone Unturned: Papers in honour of Roger Jacobi (Ashton, N. & Harris, C., Eds), Lithic Studies Society, London: p. 221-32
Waddington, C., Torben, B & Eng, R. 2017, Missing the point: a response to Conneller et al. (2016) and the mis-characterisation of narrow blade chronology in Britain. Mesolithic Miscellany, 25(1): 26-32.




How to Cite

Berg-Hansen, I. M., Wicks, K., & Mithen, S. (2019). A tanged point and two blade technologies from Rubha Port an t-Seilich, Isle of Islay, western Scotland. Journal of Lithic Studies, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.2218/jls.2892



Research Articles