Daer excavation – latest update

19 August 2010

Some of the Early Neolithic items found so far

Some of the Early Neolithic items found so far

The project is moving along very nicely and we have some more exciting things to report. We now have four sites where Early Neolithic material has been found in apparent association with the Mesolithic artefacts. Flint scrapers, pitchstone, and pottery have been retrieved along with a flint and a chert leaf arrow. We are wondering if (and hoping that) we have found the elusive transition between the two periods. The evidence is stacking up to say we have.

The Daer valley contains no natural chert, either in situ rock or drift geology, therefore all of the lithic found there has been brought in by the people. We have found every type and colour of local chert along with flint, pitchstone and various other types of chalcedony and mudstone/siltstones. The latter have been brought from Dumfriesshire and may indicate a travel route up the rivers Nith and Annan to connect over into the Daer valley. On two sites we have retrieved dateable charcoal from pits and surface spreads (only a tiny amount of hazel nut shell is represented) and we have managed to detect stake holes, although little of it makes much sense, however, it is early days yet.

Some of the Group at the cremation pit found below a cairn

Some of the Group pictured at the excavated cremation pit found below a cairn

Continually picking up lithics can be a bit boring, so we have diverted onto some of the many cairns we have found and which have been trashed by the plough. The first produced a pit full of charcoal and this is interpreted as a cremation deposit although no burnt bone was present. The second appeared to be just a pile of stones and this one may simply be the result of pre historic field clearance. We are sure that some of the other cairns will prove to be funerary in function, but most will be field clearance piles. 

A typical plough wrecked cairn, this covered the cremation pit

A typical plough wrecked cairn, this covered the cremation pit

We have now recorded over two hundred find spots on a single hill flank, some are features such as cairns or burnt mounds while some are a single piece of chert or flint, there is no chance of investigating every location so we are targeting those considered most likely to produce the best evidence.

One thing seems to be sure and that is that upland landscapes with recorded archaeological visible sites represent only a tiny aspect of what may lie invisible until disturbed, as in the Daer valley. We still require more help to pull off this exciting work, contact us if you fancy a weekend of discovery.