2.2 Interpretation

The immediate on-site interpretation of the curving line of pits was that they were post-holes from a wind-break structure, built as a shelter against north-easterly onshore winds. The larger pit F61 could have contained an upright post to support the ends of seven rear posts, thus creating a semi-conical roof structure. This interpretation was purely based on the configuration of the features, as none had any visible remains of a post-pipe or packing stones. It is possible, however, that any traces of posts left in the post-holes would have been erased by invertebrate activity over several thousands of years.

Assuming that the arc of pits represented post-holes, the evidence from the fills suggests that the structure was built on an existing site. Post-holes are likely to have been backfilled soon after excavation and as all of the fills contained fragments of carbonised hazelnut shells and worked flint, it would seem that this backfill contained occupation material which is likely to have come from near-by. This is also supported by the occupation layer F46 which is not limited in extent by the line of the supposed shelter. If the shelter had stood for the entire period over which the site was in use, it might be expected that the line of the shelter would reflect more closely the extent of the occupation layer. As it is, it could be argued that the occupation layer represents pre-structural activity which was then dug through and disturbed during the construction of the shelter.

Nevertheless, as none of the pits contained any evidence for posts, nor were they cut particularly deeply, it must be noted that any shelter would have been flimsy. However, given their form, an alternative, non-structural explanation must be considered. Pits, of various sizes and with various fills, are common on mesolithic sites. Their interpretation is generally problematic, not least because the fill must be later than the actual cutting of the pit and may bear little relation to its original function. If the pits at Fife Ness did not relate to a structure, they clearly related to the activities that were taking place on site and, as such, further discussion on both this, and the possible function of any shelter, is left until the final discussion, when other relevant evidence such as that relating to the lithic assemblage may be taken into account.


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Last updated: Wed Sep 30 1998