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'Swine team' lead archaeologists to Ice Age find

Archaeologists from the University of Reading have been sharing the tale of how a herd of pigs led to them discovering the oldest evidence of human activity in Scotland.

Dr Karen Wicks from the University of Reading with the 'Swine Team' Credit: University of Reading

The team were alerted to Islay in the Inner Hebrides after a herd of pigs dug up uprooted mesolithic items while foraging along the coastline. The scientists discovered a set of Ice Age stone tools used for hunting - including sharp points used for hunting big game and scrapers for cleaning skins. The items date back 12,000 years.

Some of the tools found by the archaeologists

"The Mesolithic finds were a wonderful discovery - but what was underneath took our breath away. The Ice Age tools provide the first unequivocal presence of people in Scotland about 3000 years earlier than previously indicated. This moves the story of Islay into a new historical era, from the Mesolithic into the Palaeolithic.

"Western Scotland was the northwest frontier of the Ice Age world, a continuous landmass stretching across Europe to Asia. It was originally thought that people first arrived in Scotland after the end of the ice age, around 10,500 years ago. However we now know that a group of ice age hunter-gatherers visited Islay much earlier, discarding broken stone tools at what we think was maybe a camp site, on the island's east coast...

"The initial discovery was more swine team than Time Team. Archaeology relies on expert planning and careful analysis - but a bit of luck is also very welcome."

– Dr Karen Wicks, University of Reading's Department of Archaeology

Replica bronze age boat takes to the sea

The crew of a replica bronze age boat has successfully managed to sail the vessel around the Kent coast today. It's the longest journey the boat has made - from Folkestone to Dover. The boat was designed and rebuilt by archaeologists after the original was unearthed nearby twenty two years ago. Andrea Thomas reports. She spoke to Richard Christian, from the Port of Dover, crew member Andrew Richardson and Paul Bennett from Canterbury Archaeological Trust.


  1. Martin Dowse

New discovery: The oldest settlement in Britain revealed

Archaeologists have made a dramatic discovery in Wiltshire, which has led to the town of Amesbury now officially being declared the oldest settlement in Britain.

It was previously thought that Thatcham in Berkshire held the honour. But carbon dating of objects dug up 40 miles west of Thatcham - in Amesbury, now reveal that humans have lived there - for more than ten millennia.

The revelation has also thrown new light on why Stonehenge was built close to the Wiltshire town. Martin Dowse reports.

Archaeologists make discovery on site of controversial road scheme

Archaeologists from Oxford surveying the site of a controversial road scheme have found flint tools dating back 12,000 years. The scientists have been carrying out excavations along the route of the Bexhill to Hastings link road in Sussex.

Protesters say the road is unnecessary and a blight on the landscape.

But its construction is giving archaeologists a unique opportunity to discover more about the way our ancient ancestors lived. Malcolm Shaw reports.