New evidence from earliest Neolithic colonisation of Scotland  

Related Articles

Related Articles

Archaeological excavations at Kirkton of Fetteresso near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire have revealed a palimpsest of human occupation and activity spread over at least four and a half millennia from the early Neolithic to the early medieval period.

306 sherds of pottery from a single pit appear to predate the previous horizon of 3,800 BC for the earliest Neolithic Pottery in Scotland. New radiocarbon dating evidence indicates that the sherds of carinated bowls found at Kirkton of Fetteresso were probably deposited sometime between 3952 BC to 3766 BC.

This suggests that the Neolithic pottery from this site was produced by (or imported by) one of the first few generations of farmers in, or arriving to, Scotland at the beginning of the fourth millennium BC.


Prior to this, Scotland was inhabited by small groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers who exploited the natural resources of the wild landscape. The beginning of the Neolithic period was one of the most significant periods in Scotland because this marked an enormous change in the population and the landscape.

The beginning of farming was begun by new communities of farmers from Europe who brought new species of plants and animals to Scotland, established permanent settlements and cleared huge tracts of woodland, transforming the landscape.

‘There are only one or two sites in Britain which have similar early dates: Coupland in Northumberland and Eweford Pit in East Lothian, which corroborates the notion that the carinated bowl tradition first reached north-eastern Britain, primarily Scotland but also Northumbria, before becoming visible elsewhere in Britain,’ said Robert Lenfert who co-authored the report. ‘This new evidence doesn’t support the previous notion that early Neolithic colonisation followed major rivers.

Rather, it is more convincing to postulate that this technology – and those capable of producing it – arrived directly via sea-routes into Stonehaven Bay, further supporting the evidence that this pottery is very early in the Neolithic period in Scotland.’

‘What is also particularly striking about Kirkton of Fetteresso is the apparent repetitive yet episodic activity within this relatively small area over at least four millennia,’ said co-author Alison Cameron. ‘The landscape surrounding the site contains numerous prehistoric features which span a similar timeframe, including Mesolithic remains and early Neolithic pits also containing carinated bowls. The new radiocarbon dating evidence we have gathered has revealed Kirkton of Fetteresso as a palimpsest of periodic activity covering the early Neolithic, the late Bronze Age, the early and middle to later Iron Ages (pre-Roman) and the early medieval or Pictish period.’

The landscape around Kirkton of Fetteresso undoubtedly contains more information that could help shed light on some of the earliest farmers to settle in Scotland over six thousand years ago.

This research was undertaken by Cameron Archaeology and funded by GS Brown. ARO34: Past the Cemetery Gates: A multiperiod site at Kirkton of Fetteresso, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire by Robert Lenfert and Alison Cameron with contributions from Laura Bailey, Torben Bjarke Ballin, Paul R J Duffy, Tim Holden and Julie Lochrie, is freely available to download from the ARO website – Archaeology Reports Online.

Analysis of the findings, which have recovered the earliest known Neolithic pottery in Scotland, has just been published in

Header Image – Early Neolithic pit during excavation showing pottery finds © ARO.

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


The Varangian Guard – When Vikings Served the Eastern Roman Empire

The Varangian Guard was an elite unit that served as the personal bodyguards for the emperors of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire).

Walking, Talking and Showing Off – a History of Roman Gardens

In ancient Rome, you could tell a lot about a person from the look of their garden. Ancient gardens were spaces used for many activities, such as dining, intellectual practice, and religious rituals.

Curious Kids: How did the First Person Evolve?

We know humans haven’t always been around. After all, we wouldn’t have survived alongside meat-eating dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex.

Ring-like Structure on Ganymede May Have Been Caused by a Violent Impact

Researchers from Kobe University and the National Institute of Technology, Oshima College have conducted a detailed reanalysis of image data from Voyager 1, 2 and Galileo spacecraft in order to investigate the orientation and distribution of the ancient tectonic troughs found on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede.

Tracing Evolution From Embryo to Baby Star

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) took a census of stellar eggs in the constellation Taurus and revealed their evolution state.

“Woodhenge” Discovered in the Iberian Peninsula

Archaeologists conducting research in the Perdigões complex in the Évora district of the Iberian Peninsula has uncovered a “Woodhenge” monument.

New Fossil Discovery Shows How Ancient ‘Hell Ants’ Hunted With Headgear

Researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Chinese Academy of Sciences and University of Rennes in France have unveiled a stunning 99-million-year-old fossil pristinely preserving an enigmatic insect predator from the Cretaceous Period -- a 'hell ant' (haidomyrmecine) -- as it embraced its unsuspecting final victim, an extinct relative of the cockroach known as Caputoraptor elegans.

New Algorithm Suggests That Early Humans and Related Species Interbred Early and Often

A new analysis of ancient genomes suggests that different branches of the human family tree interbred multiple times, and that some humans carry DNA from an archaic, unknown ancestor.

Popular stories

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.

The Real Dracula?

“Dracula”, published in 1897 by the Irish Author Bram Stoker, introduced audiences to the infamous Count and his dark world of sired vampiric minions.