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Imagine the world of the wild harvesters, living within the wildwoods of Scotland over six thousand years ago. Our Mesolithic ancestors were at home in their environment, hunting, fishing and gathering enough to survive and prosper. Today, Scotland’s landscapes provide the best setting possible for imagining and connecting with the Mesolithic experience. Whether walking through Highland pinewood, or delving deep into Atlantic rainforest, the sights and sounds of our natural world inspire observation and reflection.

Illustration of a map made with sticks, stones and leaves

> An illustration of a Mesolithic map, by Alex Leonard © FLS 2020

Our learning resource Into the Wildwoods describes the interconnected ideas of habitat networks, natural resources and seasonal change in the Mesolithic. Thinking about how our Mesolithic ancestors understood the complex habitats and ecosystems within which they hunted and gathered – adapting to and sustaining life within very human habitats – can help us understand our own place within the natural world.

Into the Wildwoods and it’s supporting Storyline explore the themes of cognitive maps and story maps, connected landscapes, seasonal resources, special places, movement and travel, and different scales. Five different woodland habitats are highlighted and  populated by a cast of cool characters, designed to decorate the classroom and inspire young minds.

Illustration of Mesolithic map showing several trees and mountains

> Mesolithic map drawn by Skye Porteous

During lockdown, we invited young artists to draw their own imaginary Mesolithic landscape and the various resources that could be found within it. Their prize was to be included as apprentice Mesolithic map makers in a brand new reconstruction drawing by artist Alex Leonard. We had a great response, with lots of fantastic entries, including paintings, drawings and photographs of maps put together from things found in the woods – sticks and stones, even feathers and bones. Picking the winners from so many creative responses was really difficult – so congratulations are due to Skye Porteous (P5) and Rowan Pomeroy Soos (S2). We loved Skye’s bold design and Rowan’s rich detail.

Illustration of a Mesolithic map

> Mesolithic map drawn by Rowan Pomeroy Soos

Its early autumn and, having spent all of spring and summer trapping and hunting for furs, the Highland Pinewood clan is travelling to the coast for the hazelnut harvest before the late autumn rains. Then they will move on to trade and celebrate the harvest at the clan gathering by the sea. Pihla is explaining the route they will follow down the river, towards the sky of the setting sun. Her two apprentice map makers are Skye and Rowan. Skye is carrying a harpoon based on one found at Tarradale in the Highlands.

Pihla’s map is orientated towards the setting sun in the west. She has laid out the river with twigs and the sea with nettle leaves, moulding the hills and mountains out of earth. Her carved animal and fish figurines are based on similar figurines found in Norway. The oak leaf lake and trout figurine reflect the places and resources marked on Rowan’s detailed map, while the charcoal doors marked on the pebbles of the camp in the foreground and the red ochre of the hearth were inspired by the bold design of Skye’s map. There are more pebble ‘tents’ marking the clan gathering at the coast, alongside the flint blades that the Highland Pinewood clan hope to exchange for their pelts and furs.

Illustration of three Mesolithic characters gathered round a map with hills beyond

> The finished illustration of Pihla with winners, Skye and Rowan, by Alex Leonard © FLS 2020


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