5.6 Research recommendations

The appropriate use of scientific techniques is an important factor for any archaeological project. Specific recommendations include:

  1. Examination of archaeological assemblages to gauge whether the procurement sites may be primary or secondary sources, and whether the raw material may represent any form of selection (flaking properties, colours and patterns, etc.);
  2. Comparison of archaeological samples with geological samples, in collaboration with geologists and in the field, as well as the lab, where possible;
  3. Field work to inspect potential source locations/quarries.
  4. Development of work on use-wear/residue analysis for lithic assemblages and more frequent application to excavated material. 
  5. Understanding the dynamics of the formation of occupation deposits as well as identifying specific craft or processing activities within sites through the application of a range of methodologies to artefactual analyses, including use wear and contextual analysis.
  6. Experimental replication of artefactual and site processes.


5.2 Science-based archaeology and the Scottish Palaeolithic and Mesolithic

Scientific methods have been, or could in future be, applied to a number of distinct areas of archaeological investigation into the Scottish Palaeolithic and Mesolithic, including:

5.2.1 Dating (isotopic and non-isotopic methods);
5.2.2 Artefact studies (use-wear analysis, trace element analysis, residue analysis);
5.2.3 Dietary reconstruction and population movements (stable isotopes);
5.2.4 Archaeogenetics (modern and ancient DNA);
5.2.5 Environmental reconstruction (palynology, stable isotopes, palaeobotany, zooarchaeology, geoarchaeology);
5.2.6 Site investigation (remote sensing and geophysical prospecting);
5.2.7 Conservation.

The boundaries between archaeological science and some other branches of archaeology, such as environmental archaeology and bioarchaeology, are somewhat blurred. For example, studies involving pollen analysis (palynology) figure prominently in archaeological science journals, but most palynological research is not done on archaeological materials or deposits per se but ‘off site’, directed at answering questions about past environments and human–environment interactions. Similarly, DNA studies and isotopic studies of human diet may be considered as core elements within the sub-field of bioarchaeology.