Biggar Gap Project

This project explores the long-held assumption that the Biggar Gap would have been a route utilised by hunter gatherers in the Mesolithic period making their way through the Borders into the Midland Valley. The excavation of one of what may well be a group of quarries for the extraction of chert, on the lands of Burnetland Farm, west of Broughton, is evidence of a sustained interest in the area on the part of the Mesolithic inhabitants. It is perhaps not a coincidence that these quarries in an outcrop of the Radiolarian Chert offer the north-bound traveller his last opportunity to stock up with tool-making materials.

Biggar Gap
The Biggar Gap looking from east to west

The Biggar Gap is an approximately east-west valley which connects the flood plains of the rivers Clyde and Tweed. It carries the road from the village of Broughton in the east to Biggar in the west.

To test a long-held assumption that this was the route used by hunter gatherers in the Mesolithic period, to travel east-west across southern Scotland, an arable fieldwalking programme is under way. To date, some evidence for Mesolithic activity has been found at Heavyside Farm and one of what appears to be group of quarries for the extraction of chert was excavated at Burnetland Farm.

Chert Mine excavation trench
Chert extraction quarry excavation

Burnetland Farm excavations took place in 2005/2006 season. A long narrow trench intersected a seam of Radiolarian Chert that strikes approximately east-west.

Hazel charcoal, found, with oak, at the base of a 2m-high quarry face, yielded a radiocarbon date of 5220±35BP. Extraction of the chert had been carried out using stone pounders, several of which were found scattered through the quarry infill. It is possible that fire was used to open up the rock layers but evidence for this was inconclusive. (Report in preparation).

Related Reports

  • Burnetland Farm | January 2012 | Tam Ward, BAG |1.6KB| The excavation of a Mesolithic chert quarry at Burnetland Farm, near Broughton village in Upper Tweeddale, Borders Region, Scotland. The largest example of a group of quarry pits disposed across a steep hill slope produced a quantity of stone pounders, a fewmodified pieces of chert, and taken with radiocarbon dating of charcoal, the evidence indicates the procurement of radiolarian chert as a tool making material in the Late Mesolithic period.
  • Cornhill Farm Fieldwalking & Excavation | 2001 | Tam Ward, BAG | 1MB | An arable fieldwalking project started in 1990, specifically at that time to give young archaeologists and others, experience in artefact retrieval, identification and recording. The results of these are detailed in this report.

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