Stone Age hunters appear to have been more active in deer management than suspected.
Stone Age humans on the Scotland's northern most islands transported deer distances of several hundreds miles or more according to a recent study in the Royal Society journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The discovery was made after comparing the DNA of Neolithic deer to the DNA of deer of neighboring Britain, Ireland, western Europe, and Scandinavia. The results showed great enough genetic differences that scientists of the study are convinced there is no genetic relationship between the northern Scotish Isle deer and their closest neighbors.
Consensus in the scientific and historical community also suggests the deer could not have been native to the area. The last Ice Age is believed to have retreated from the area around 11,000 years ago. During the Ice Age, these northern Islands would have been covered in ice, thus making habitation impossible for animals like deer.
As the ice retreated, the islands would have become hospitable to animals once again. However, consensus once again rules out natural migration of the animals. Due to the distance of the islands from the mainland there is little support for the idea deer swam from the mainland to
The only alternative? Deer were intentionally brought to the island by Stone Age hunters.
Researchers believe the deer to have been brought to the islands about 5,000 years ago. It is known that people of the same time were able to transport animals such as cattle, pigs, and sheep. It is also known that deer were of tremendous importance to the lives of these early agriculturalists. Still, just where these deer came from and how they got to the islands remains a mystery.
"The hunt is now on to find the ancestors of these deer," said co-author David Stanton.
Wherever the deer's ancestry happens to be from, one thing is for certain: Stone Age people were apparently managing deer on a much higher level than previously thought.