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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 06:28 GMT 07:28 UK
Ancient flints found on Cairngorms
Flints uncovered by excavations
The worked flints shed light on Scotland's history
Archaeologists are excited by a discovery which they say proves early Scottish settlers travelled through the Cairngorms 7,000 years ago.

More than 80 pieces of worked flint and quartz dating from the Mesolithic age have been found at a site in Glen Dee near Braemar.

The finds were made by chance during conservation work on footpaths.

Experts say it proves people moved through the landscape in seasonal cycles gathering and hunting for food.

Most of the knowledge of the period so far has come from sites on the coast.

These groups of people may have been very familiar with what even today are considered to be extremely challenging Highland landscapes
Dr Shannon Fraser
This is believed to be the first find from such an early date in the Cairngorms.

Dr Shannon Fraser, archaeologist for the National Trust for Scotland in the North East, said: "We suspected that major route ways through the Cairngorms, such as the Lairig Ghru, may have been used by our earliest Scottish settlers as they moved through the landscape in seasonal cycles, fishing, hunting and collecting other foods and useful materials.

"But without any physical evidence for the presence of these people, we just couldn't prove it.

"What is so exciting is that these tiny fragments of worked stone, some only a few millimetres long, suggest that these groups of people may have been very familiar with what even today are considered to be extremely challenging Highland landscapes."

Path building on the Cairngorms
The evidence was turned up by work on mountain paths
Further study funded by Aberdeenshire Council has demonstrated that both tool-making activities and the use of the tools themselves were happening at the site.

The finds include both broken tools and the waste flakes produced when working pieces of flint.

Caroline Wickham-Jones, a consultant archaeologist specialising in the Mesolithic of Scotland, said: "This is a very important find because it helps to fill in one of the most glaring of gaps in our knowledge of the early settlement of Scotland: what was going on in the interior of the country."

BBC Scotland's Colin Wight
"Archaeological eyes are open and excited"

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