Early Settlers


View objects


At the end of the Ice Age around 10,000 years ago, the climate became warmer, sea levels rose and woodland began to spread across southern Scotland. The coastline was very different to its appearance today. East Lothian’s coastal fringe was attractive for settlement due to the resources available – an abundance of fish and shellfish from the sea, plants and animals from the land and lithic material from the coast for making stone tools.

Artist’s impression of the mesolithic house, by Thomas Small

Mesolithic people used local beach materials to make small stone tools called microliths. These tiny blades were embedded in wooden shafts to make arrows for hunting or saws and sickles for cutting plants. Different settlements sometimes show a preference for using particular shapes of microlith such as scrapers or triangles. This may relate to different tasks such as cleaning animal hides or gutting fish. Is this the origin of the multi-tool?

East Barns House

The excavated East Barns house. It measured 6m by 7m © AOC Archaeology

The East Barns house was discovered at a quarry near Dunbar in 2002. Charcoal found was dated to 8,300BC, making it one of the oldest dwellings in Scotland! Postholes across the floor had divided it into ‘rooms’ with a fireplace in the centre. It is thought that six or seven people would have lived here. Although this may seem cramped, we think this house was lived in all year round. Over 30,000 pieces of flint were found here, including different tools and scraps of flint from tool making. Previously it was thought that Mesolithic people were constantly on the move but this shows them settling, probably because of the good location.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *