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Stronsay, Links House

Flint Scatter(S) (Mesolithic), Pit(S) (Period Unassigned), Post Hole(S) (Period Unassigned), Structure(S) (Mesolithic), Organic Material

Site Name Stronsay, Links House

Classification Flint Scatter(S) (Mesolithic), Pit(S) (Period Unassigned), Post Hole(S) (Period Unassigned), Structure(S) (Mesolithic), Organic Material

Canmore ID 300439

Site Number HY62NE 57

NGR HY 6550 2570

NGR Description HY 6550 2570 and HY 6558 2558

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Stronsay
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney


Field Visit (March 2008 - September 2008)

HY 6550 2570 Following the discovery in 2007 of a discrete flint scatter that exhibited Late Upper Palaeolithic/ Early Mesolithic affinities (microliths and tanged points), two phases of fieldwork were undertaken to characterise the nature of the site and see if any associated features survived.

Phase 1 – In March 2008 prior to any ground-breaking activity, geophysical and fieldwalking surveys were

undertaken within a discrete 60m2 area. A gradiometer survey was undertaken over the core area of the scatter by the Orkney College Geophysics Unit, with the aim of locating any anomalies of archaeological interest. The survey failed to locate any features, but this was expected given ephemeral and subtle nature of such early prehistoric sites.

Fieldwalking identified two concentrations of lithics. These were then targeted using a series of 1m2 test pits totalling 30m2. The pits produced over 1,000 pieces of flint including microliths, backed blades, obliquely blunted points, knapping debitage, cores and many burnt flints. In two test pits (TP17 and TP22), in situ subsoil features in the form of two scoops were discovered. The location of these pits corresponded to the highest concentrations of surface flint. The scoops cut into the natural glacial till and were heavily truncated by ploughing, they may represent the last relics of posthole features. These initial excavations highlighted the site's potential in relation to the preservation of in situ remains.

Phase 2 – In September 2008 two larger area excavations were undertaken over the locations of the possible features. Trench A was opened over TP17 and Trench B over TP22. All excavated material was wet-sieved. Trench A produced the highest densities of flint, a total of over 8,400 pieces including high numbers of Mesolithic tool types. Numerous negative features were present in the excavated area, as were patches of staining and areas which may reflect the remains of possible old surfaces. The location of this evidence correlated with areas of high concentration in the flint distribution. The evidence of activity extends outside the current area of open excavation.

Trench B, although in an area that had a high density of surface flint, contained no further evidence of features. These were significantly fewer lithics than in Trench A. A peat deposit eroding out of the beach cliff c200m away at Mill Bay was also examined and sampled by the University of Stirling and SUERC who are currently running paleoenvironmental analyses and using OSL dating techniques to examine the nature, extent and date of this deposit.

Funder: Historic Scotland and Orkney Islands Council

Naomi Woodward (ORCA), 2008

Excavation (30 March 2009 - 15 April 2009)

HY 6558 2558 A third phase of excavations from 30 March–15 April 2009 continued the investigation of a series of Mesolithic structures that were associated with a dense flint scatter in the topsoil (Woodward 2007, 2008;

Lee and Woodward 2008). The groups of features excavated during the previous phases were found to form only part of a complex site history of temporary stake and post structures. A total of 139 stake/postholes, pits, and other features were excavated this season (167 features overall) and these have been divided into nine groups. Most of the groups represent the remains of stake and post built structures, with several being multi-phased. Other groups may have formed exterior structures, wind-breaks and external settings. Although the site was plough truncated some thin occupation layers or stains survived. No evidence of hearths was found and there was a general lack of burnt material. An assemblage of nearly 25,000 pieces of flint, including diagnostic Mesolithic points, obliquely blunted points, awls, microliths, blades and backed blades, and tanged points have been recovered from all phases of work; a collection unparalleled in northern Scotland. The discoveries represent a Mesolithic camp that may have been used on a seasonal basis, and is the only such example in Orkney. Very late Mesolithic/early Neolithic radiocarbon dates from a stakehole associated with one structure (Group 1) combined with the Mesolithic flint assemblage from the topsoil point to a site that probably had considerable longevity of use.

Report: Orkney SMR and the RCAHMS

Funder: Historic Scotland

Daniel Lee and Naomi Woodward – ORCA

Orkney Smr Note

A Mesolithic camp which may have been used on a seasonal basis over a considerable period of time. Stake/post holes, pits and other features have been excavated and almost 25,000 pieces of flint including diagnostic Mesolithic points, obliquely blunted points, awls, microliths, baldes and backed blades and tanged points.

Information from Orkney SMR [n.d.]


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