This paper describes a small Mesolithic structure from the Cairngorm Mountains, Scotland. Excavations at Caochanan Ruadha identified a small oval structure (c. 3 m×2.2 m) with a central fire setting, in an upland valley (c.540 m asl). The site was occupied at c. 8200 cal BP and demonstrates hunter-gatherer use of the uplands during a period of significant climatic deterioration. The interpretation of the structure is primarily based on the distribution of the lithic assemblage, as the heavily podsolised soils have left no trace of light structural features. The lithic assemblage is specialised, dominated by microlith fragments, and functional analysis has identified different uses of different areas inside the structure. The identification of small, specialised Mesolithic sites is unusual and this paper will discuss the evidence for the presence of the structure and its use, compare it to other Mesolithic structures in Britain and highlight some methodological implications.
The UDTP partners are grateful for financial assistance received from National Trust for Scotland, Aberdeenshire Council, Society of Antiquaries of London, Robert Kiln Charitable Trust, Royal Archaeological Institute and Tony Clark Memorial Fund. The functional analysis was supported by a grant from the UCD College of Social Science and Law. Many people have contributed to the success of fieldwork including colleagues and students from the University of Aberdeen and University College Dublin; in particular we would like to thank Joe Cull, Bernard Gilhooly, Niamh Kelly, Rowan Lacey, Mark Powers and James Redmond. Thanks to Conor McDermott for assistance with the artefact photography. This work would not have been possible without the support of the NTS Estate Manager David Frew and the Mar Lodge Estate team. We are very grateful to Paul Preston for discussion of upland Pennine comparanda. Thanks also to two reviewers for their useful suggestions for consideration.