Rabbits dig up prehistoric finds on Welsh island

Evidence of Late Mesolithic and Bronze activity has been discovered on a Welsh island.

Prehistoric stone tools and pottery fragments have been unearthed by burrowing rabbits on the island of Skokholm, two miles off the coast of west Pembrokeshire, Wales, and represent the first solid evidence of Late Mesolithic occupation and Bronze Age burials on the island.

Skokholm is owned by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.  In March 2021, its wardens, Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, found a smooth rectangular stone in a rabbit hole close to the island’s cottage.

Photographs of the find were sent to prehistoric tool expert Dr Andrew David, who immediately recognised it to be a late Mesolithic ‘bevelled pebble’, a tool used in tasks such as processing shellfish or preparing seal hides.

The Late Mesolithic ‘bevelled pebble’ tool dating between 6-9,000 years old is the first evidence for hunter-gatherer occupation on Skokholm Island (Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, WTSWW).

‘Although these types of tools are well known on coastal sites on mainland Pembrokeshire and Cornwall, this is the first example from Skokholm, and the first firm evidence for Late Mesolithic occupation on the island,’ David said.

Brown and Eagle later found large fragments of coarse, thick-walled pottery at the entrances of the same rabbit holes.

Jody Deacon, Curator of Prehistoric Archaeology at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, identified the pottery sherds as belonging to an Early Bronze Age Vase Urn, typically used in cremation burials from c. 2100-1750 BC.  It is another remarkable find as this pottery type has never before been discovered on any other west Pembrokeshire island.

The rabbit hole which produced the new prehistoric finds (Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, WTSWW).

Archaeologists Louise Barker and Toby Driver, who have previously investigated the nearby islands of Skomer and Ramsey, now plan to carry out a survey of Skokholm later this year.

‘Skokholm is producing some amazing prehistoric finds,’ said Driver. ‘It seems we may have an Early Bronze burial mound built over a Middle Stone Age hunter-gatherer site.’

It is hoped that these are just the first of many exciting discoveries which will shed light on a new chapter in the history of the island.