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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Mike Church

Piper, S. F., Bishop, R. R., Rowley-Conwy, P. A., Elliott, L. & Church, M. J. (2018). Fire in the Moor: Mesolithic carbonised remains in riverine deposits at Gleann Mor Barabhais, Lewis, Western Isles of Scotland. Journal of the North Atlantic 35: 1-22.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper presents the results of a palaeoenvironmental investigation of riverine deposits containing charred
heathland plant material, recovered during an archaeological survey of Gleann Mor Barabhais, Lewis, Western Isles of
Scotland. This survey was conducted to identify Mesolithic occupation in the interior of the island and was undertaken as
part of a wider project investigating the Mesolithic of the Western Isles. The recovery of carbonised material of Mesolithic
date is discussed in light of the long-standing debate on detecting hunter-gatherer impact on environments using palaeoenvironmental
records. The findings are compared to regional pollen sequences, where peaks in micro-charcoal levels and
associated reductions in arboreal pollen are interpreted as evidence for anthropogenic fire ecology. These have been identified
in areas where archaeological evidence for human occupation is absent. It is argued that this site reflects deliberate
burning of vegetation by humans, most likely a small hearth, and therefore represents the first direct inferred evidence for
the Mesolithic in the interior of the Western Isles.