Early Holocene sea fishing in Western Scotland: An experimental study

Peter Groom, Catriona Pickard, C. Bonsall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Coastal shell middens, a prominent feature of the Mesolithic archaeological record of western Scotland, suggest a maritime economy based on fishing and shellfishing. Despite evidence for the importance of fish to diet, virtually nothing is known of the fishing methods practiced, although several ‘models’ have been proposed. We tested these models by means of a series of field experiments. A range of experimental fishing gear including lines and portable traps and pots were made utilizing resources and technologies available during the Mesolithic. Fishing experiments were conducted at,or near to, the Scottish west coast Mesolithic sites of Ulva Cave and Sand (Loch Torridon), and also on the island of Colonsay, South Uist, and the Urr Estuary on the Solway Firth. Results suggested thatMesolithic fishers must have had extensive knowledge of tides as well as species behavior to successfully exploit coastal environments adjacent to the west coast midden sites. Additionally, capture of the main fish species (i.e., Pollachius virens, Labridae, and Pollachius pollachius)and brachyurans (Carcinus maenas, Liocarcinus depurator,and Cancer pagurus) identified in the middens did not require sophisticated fishing gear; simple hand-lines sufficed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-450
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Island and Coastal Archaeology
Issue number3
Early online date24 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2019


  • experimental archaeology
  • shell midden
  • fishing
  • Mesolithic
  • Scotland


Dive into the research topics of 'Early Holocene sea fishing in Western Scotland: An experimental study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this