Scilly’s Unexplored Past Will Be Studied Next Month

A previous dig site at An Doirlinn on South Uist

A previous dig site at An Doirlinn on South Uist

A team of archaeologists is arriving in Scilly this weekend and they’re hoping to find important clues about a little known period of our history.

They’re part of the ‘Neolithic Stepping Stones’ project, which looks at how our ancestors made the leap, around 6,000 years ago, from hunting to farming.

Duncan Garrow, a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at Liverpool University, says the islands that lie in a line, from the Channel Islands in the south, through Scilly and up to Orkney, could provide important information about how farming developed in Britain.

It’s not clear whether Neolithic remains on Scilly were left by visitors or people who lived here.

So Duncan and his team will be trying to find evidence for settlements and they’ll be focussing on the area around Old Quay on St Martin’s.

He says that although Scilly has a high density of archaeological remains, most of it is Bronze Age and Iron Age.

Finding Neolithic evidence is much harder – it’s usually discovered by chance after seeing subtle things like post holes, small pits and rubbish dumps.

Duncan says a lot of Scilly’s Neolithic sites have been lost to the sea. At one time, Scilly was essentially a single island but rising sea levels after the last Ice Age lead to flooding.

But he says there could still be exciting sites left, waiting to be discovered.

That would be a very important find, he says, and could help to piece together how people were sailing to the islands.

Duncan’s team of ten archaeologists will be arriving on Saturday and will spend four weeks digging on St Martin’s, and possibly at two other sites on the islands.

They’ll be helped by the Isles of Scilly museum and will be giving a talk there about their work at 5pm on Wednesday 11th September.

They’ll also be running an open day at the dig on Saturday 21st September so members of the public can take a look around.

And Duncan says with a bit of luck, they’ll also have some newly unearthed artefacts to show.

You can find out more about the project here.