AFP, April 5, 2016
Stone Age humans populated the Scottish islands with red deer transported “considerable distances” by boat, said researchers Wednesday who admitted surprise at our prehistoric ancestors’ seafaring prowess.
DNA analysis revealed that deer on Scotland’s northermost islands were unlikely to have come from the closest and seemingly most obvious places–mainland Scotland, Ireland or Norway, said a study in the Royal Society journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
“Our results imply that Neolithic humans were transporting deer considerable distances, by sea, from an unknown source” some 4,500-5,500 years ago, co-author David Stanton of Cardiff University told AFP by email.
It was known that late Stone Age humans had transported cattle, sheep and pigs by boat, but not large wild animals, and not over such vast distances.
Red deer, said Stanton, were central to life in Britain from the end of the last Ice Age about 11,000 years ago to the arrival of the first late Stone Age farmers.
The animals provided crucial nourishment, skins, sinew, bones and antlers–used to till the soil, among other things.