Chance’s finds dating back 9,000 years tell a new ‘Dream Island’ story


Chance finds dating back 9000 years tell a new story of Skokholm Island, Pembrokeshire

Skokholm Island from WTSWW. Credit: Lucy Griffiths

The fortuitous finds of prehistoric stone tools and pottery shards, collected from a rabbit hole by the guardians of Skokholm Island, have surprised experts and hint at new chapters in the prehistory of this famous island.

Nicknamed “Dream Island”, Skokholm sits two miles off the southern coast of Pembrokeshire and is owned and managed by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. It is famous for its tens of thousands of seabirds that nest in the spring and summer months.

Nearby Skomer Island is best known for its well-preserved prehistoric archeology. All that changed in March 2021 when guardians Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, currently alone on the closed island, collected a smooth rectangular stone from a rabbit hole near the island’s hut, sheltered from a rocky outcrop.

First finds of hunter-gatherer tools

The photos were emailed to archaeologist Dr Toby Driver of the Royal Commission for Wales, part of the team that has worked on nearby Skomer Island, who contacted prehistoric stone tool expert Dr Andrew David.

Andrew immediately recognized the significance of the find: “The photos were clearly of a beveled pebble from the Late Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age),” a tool believed to have been used in tasks such as preparing seal skins to make boats. covered with leather. or to process food such as shellfish, among hunter-gatherer communities about 6000-9000 years ago. “

Chance finds dating back 9000 years tell a new story of Skokholm Island, Pembrokeshire

The Late Mesolithic ‘beveled pebble’ tool dating from 6 to 9,000 years is the earliest evidence of hunter-gatherer occupation on the island of Skokholm. Credit: Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, WTSWW

“Although these types of tools are well known from coastal sites in mainland Pembrokeshire and Cornwall, as well as Scotland and northern France, this is the earliest example from Skokholm, and the earliest firm evidence of Late Mesolithic occupation in the island”.

Dr David, who has led excavations at similar sites in Pembrokeshire, said: “Finding an example at Skokholm is exciting.”

A Bronze Age burial

The discoveries didn’t stop there. In addition to picking up a second Mesolithic pebble tool the next day, Richard and Giselle also noticed that large pieces of rough pottery were being ejected from the same rabbit holes.

This time it was Jody Deacon, curator of prehistoric archeology at Amgueddfa Cymru, National Museum of Wales, who recognized its importance. A large chunk of a thick-walled pot, decorated with incised lines around the top, is likely to be the rim of an Old Bronze Age vase urn, usually associated with cremation burials. These funeral urns, which date from between 2100 and 1750 BC. C., around 3750 years ago, they are not unusual in West Wales.

However, this was also the first of its kind on the island of Skokholm, or any of the western Pembrokeshire islands.

Chance finds dating back 9000 years tell a new story of Skokholm Island, Pembrokeshire

The decorated 3700-year-old Early Bronze Age urn fragment is the earliest Bronze Age pottery from the western Pembrokeshire Isles. Credit: Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, WTSWW

Plans to explore the archeology of Skokholm Island

Archaeologists Toby Driver and Louise Barker from the Royal Commission for Wales have carried out archaeological studies on the nearby islands of Skomer, Grassholm and Ramsey. There are now plans to visit Skokholm later in 2021 with the other experts, as COVID restrictions allow, to further explore these exciting findings.

Toby explained: “We know from past aerial surveys and airborne laser scanning by the Royal Commission that Skokholm has the remains of some prehistoric camps and settlements, although none have been excavated.” Now Skokholm is producing some amazing prehistoric finds. It appears that we may have an Old Bronze burial mound built over a hunter-gatherer site from the Middle Stone Age, disturbed by rabbits. It is a protected location, where the island’s hut now stands, and has clearly been settled for millennia. Thanks to the keen eyes of the guardians, we have the first confirmed Mesolithic tools and the first Skokholm Bronze Age pottery. To date, we have nothing similar from the larger islands of Skomer or Ramsey. Despite the blockade, the Skokholm guards have been able to share detailed photos and videos of their daily finds with experts in Wales. It means that we can all share in the excitement of these new discoveries. ”


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More information:
Royal Commission for Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales: rcahmw.gov.uk/%20Amgueddfa%20Cymru%20%E2%80%93%20National%20Museum%20Wales:%20museum.wales/

Skokholm Island Archeology Online Record: coflein.gov.uk/en/site/404211/?term=skokholm

Online registration of the first courses in Skokholm: coflein.gov.uk/en/site/415191/… mages /? Term = skokholm

Provided by The Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales

Citation: Random finds dating back 9,000 years tell a new story of ‘Dream Island’ (2021, April 2) retrieved on April 3, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-chance- dating-years-story-island. html

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