Hazelnut shells found at Skye Mesolithic site

By Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter

image copyrightUHI
image captionSome of the nut shells found during an excavation above Staffin Bay

The remains of hazelnuts eaten by some of Skye's earliest inhabitants were found at a dig on the island, archaeologists have revealed.

Hazelnuts were a favourite snack of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, according to archaeologists at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

The shells found at an excavation above Staffin Bay could be 8,000-years-old.

UHI carried out the dig along with Staffin Community Trust, school children and volunteers.

image copyrightUHI
image captionA five-day excavation was done in Staffin in September
image copyrightUHI
image captionSoil samples were later examined by UHI
image copyrightUHI
image captionThe charred shells of nuts were found in the soil

Dan Lee, lifelong learning and outreach archaeologist at UHI, said: "We have found lots of fragments of charred hazelnut shells in the lower soil samples.

"They are the ideal thing to date as they have a short life span and were a Mesolithic favourite.

"There is so much material in the samples we took that we will not be able to process them all with the current budget, but all is pointing to lots of potential to go back for another phase and include them in that."

He added: "We have what we need for now, to allow us to date the Mesolithic activity at the site."

Other finds made at the five-day dig included flints and a piece of bone possibly handcrafted into shape for use as a toggle or bead.

image copyrightTim Winterburn
image captionArchaeologist Dan Lee said there was enough evidence to date the Mesolithic activity at the site

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