The discovery of a 9,000 year-old Stone Age house on the Isle of Man has raised an impromptu debate about the dietary habits of Britain‘s early inhabitants. The discovery, made during construction at Douglas’ Ronaldsway Airport, comprises a 23ft wide pit, dug down 12 inches.
The dwelling is encompassed by six postholes which contain carbonised timbers, suggesting the home’s supports were around six inches thick. The building contains some simple stone tools, such as hammers and anvils, and 14,000 fragments which would have once been tools – yet possibly the most intriguing discovery at the site is its large burial mounds of hazelnuts.
“There were presumably so many hazelnuts near the house as a result of processing and consumption of these within the building,” says Oxford Archaeology North’s Fraser Brown. He concludes that the house’s inhabitants, “probably had a permanent base near the sea so that they could have easy access to marine resources, but given the small size of the Isle of Man, it would have been a simple matter to foray inland to exploit the different resources available there.”
The mystery of the settlement’s hazelnuts has alerted some of Britain’s top archaeologists. Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology magazine, speculates the burial mounds may have had a deeper meaning than mere waste removal: “Perhaps the smell of the burnt shells had some significance? Was it comforting, redolent of good meals, or could it have had a more complex, ritual meaning?” The discovery comes just a month after an 8,000 year-old dwelling was unearthed just yards away, which experts believe succumbed to a devastating fire.
So far an area the size of 20 football pitches has been excavated, with many more exciting finds expected before the project’s end in December. “I would regard the finds as being of national importance for the Isle of Man,” claims Andrew Johnson, curator of Field Archaeology at Manx National Heritage. “(It’s) certainly of international significance in that they add to what at present is only a very small number of Mesolithic buildings found in Northwest Europe.”
Image by Jessica.