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DNA study reveal Stone Age humans brought Red Deer to Scotland by sea …

Ian Harvey

The sound of red deer echoing in the mountains of the Highlands has become synonymous with the Scottish experience. Very few people, however, fully understand the relationship of these deer with the ancient inhabitants of the Highlands.

Recent findings have suggested that the Stone Age humans living in the Scottish mountains harboured immense adoration for the red deer and regarded them as equivalent to their livestock. Ancient men reportedly transported the first red deer species to the Highlands on sailing ships. They then helped these animals to adapt to Scottish conditions and flourish in the new environment.

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), Bardu, Norway Source

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), Bardu, Norway Source

DNA analysis has been carried out on some of the most remote regions of the British Isles such as Orkney and the Outer Hebrides. The aim of the study was to determine the lineage of the red deer in the region, and as it turns out the realm of the deer extends far beyond the Scottish shores.


Reconstructed (light green) and recent (dark green) range of the red deer (Cervus elaphus) Source

Reconstructed (light green) and recent (dark green) range of the red deer (Cervus elaphus) Source

Researchers now have credible evidence to support the claim that Stone Age Highlanders brought the red deer to the region 5,000 years ago. Most. of these species originated in France, England, and even the Mediterranean. Despite the fact researchers are not certain about the exact origin of the red deer, there is no dispute about the foreign origins of the species. Another interesting factor that emerged from the study was that ancient Scots were avid sailors and loved the animals, domesticated and wild alike. Although they might have hunted a fair number of these wild animals, Stone Age Scots considered wild animals an integral part of their environment and tried to keep a balance between hunting and breeding. of these animals.


Red deer stag Source

Red deer. stag Source

The study about the nature and descent of the Highland’s subspecies of red deer was published in 2013 and mostly focussed on Orkney and the Outer Hebrides. The study suggested that evidently Neolithic farmers purposely brought these species to Scotland on ships which also carried their livestock and other belongings.



Skeleton of a stag Source

Skeleton of a stag Source

The Stone Age humans are famous for transporting their livestock by sail, however transporting wild species is an exciting new factor that emerged from the study, and told more about the nature of Neolithic men living in Highlands.

Skeleton of Cervus Elaphus found at Għar Dalam.Source

The skeleton of Cervus Elaphus found at Għar Dalam.Source

The research associate at Cardiff University, Dr. David Stanton, who led the study commented that there is ample evidence suggesting the transportation of deer by Neolithic farmers between 4,500 to 5,500 years ago. Dr. Stanton said that the study has helped clear some uncertainty surrounding the nature and origins of the deer species that existed over the last few millennia in the Highlands. Neolithic Scots, says Dr. Stanton, had a very informed relationship with the deer and other wild life in their habitat. They not only understood their ways, these Stone Age men literally tamed some wild animals and captured them for their purposes.