MHG29867 - Mesolithic flint-working site at Oliclett, near Wick


A Mesolithic flint-working site comprising a lithic scatter initially revealed by forestry ploughing. Excavations have subsequently recovered large numbers of lithics, including microliths, blades and debitage, concentrated on several small knolls.

Type and Period (2)

  • LITHIC WORKING SITE (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • LITHIC SCATTER (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Scatter of flints flakes found during forestry preparation works near Oliclett, Caithness. All the flakes were within a fairly well defined area no more than 6m x 6m. Paul Humphreys attended and took digital photos as well as locating the grid reference using a GPS.The flakes were located on the interface between the peat layer and the underlying clay.
The site will not be planted but instead incorporated within the adjoining clearing.
The flakes are currently in the landowner's possession. <1>

Preliminary excavation was carried out of a lithic scatter revealed by forestry ploughing in an area of blanket peat below the Hill of Oliclett. The ploughing had uncovered buried soils in areas where the peat appears to have been extensively cut in the past. Over 1200 lithics (flint and quartzite) were recovered from these soils, mostly undiagnostic debitage. However, the assemblage does contain 61 narrow blade microliths and a number of microburins and bladelets, indicating a Mesolithic date for the site. A single barbed-and-tanged arrowhead was also recovered from the base of the peat.
The site is located on a gentle E-facing slope at 100m OD, in the vicinity of a number of small burns and around 6km from the modern coastline. There appear to be two main concentrations of lithics, located approximately 100m apart on small knolls. Only one of these was thoroughly investigated, revealing that here the scatter was composed of several epicentres surrounded by areas of reduced lithic density. Environmental sampling was undertaken in the vicinity of the site. <2><3>

Radiocarbon analysis of peat samples from this area has revealed that the blanket peat began to form at c.6575 BC, which strongly suggests that the peats are concurrent with the later Mesolithic use of the hillside. This indicates strong potential for the survival of well-preserved, stratified occupation evidence within or beneath the peat. <4>

Further excavations took place at this site in 2002, expanding the original survey area. Further Mesolithic material was recovered, as well as a considerable amount of burnt flint. Some possible stake holes were discovered in association with an ard mark, but no datable material was recovered from the features. <5>

A detailed peat-stratigraphic survey was undertaken and sampled for a comprehensive radiocarbon dating programme in 2001, undertaken in conjunction with the trial excavations carried out in the same year. Cores were obtained along two transects of 600 metres and 100 metres in length respectively. 18 radiocarbon dates were obtained dates and allowed the transect to be mapped through time, from the earliest Holocene peat development 8,500 cal. BP (c.6550 BC) to complete cover some 2,000 cal. BP (c.50 BC). The Mesolithic Hunter-gatherer camp was buried by 7000 cal. Bp (c. 5050 BC). The most detailed understanding of blanket peat development in Scotland came from this work, and it is discussed in Richard Tipping's 2008 paper, along with five other Scottish sites. <6>

Sources/Archives (7)



Grid reference Centred ND 3036 4534 (668m by 645m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND34NW
Civil Parish WICK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (6)

  • FLAKE (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • MICROBURIN (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BLADELET (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • MICROLITH (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • DEBITAGE (Mesolithic - 8000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BARBED AND TANGED ARROWHEAD (Bronze Age - 2400 BC to 551 BC)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (1)

External Links (1)

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