The treasure trove unearthed during the building of the £17 million A75 Dunragit bypass in Wigtownshire sheds new light on land use and settlement in the area over the past 9,000 years.
The discoveries include a rare and complete 130-piece jet bead necklace dating about 2000BC – the first of its kind ever discovered in south-west Scotland.
Other finds include an Iron Age village, a Romano-British brooch, a Bronze Age cemetery complex, cremation urns and pottery fragments.
There are also early Neolithic flint tools, including a flint arrowhead, and more than 13,500 Mesolithic flints.
Archaeologist Rod McCullagh ofHistoric Scotland said: “An unforeseen wealth of archaeological information has been recovered. The team of archaeologists from Amey and Guard Archaeology Ltd have uncovered the remains of dwellings and burials spanning over 7,000 years of prehistory.
“In addition, numerous smaller sites have been discovered which seem to relate to the use and exploitation of the land both through hunting and farming.
“These are exciting discoveries which offer a much richer understanding of the settlement of south-west Scotland over the past 9,000 years.”
Dr Alison Sheridan, from National Museums Scotland, identified two jet bead necklaces found at the site, considered to be the rarest of the discoveries.
She said the necklaces were made in about 2000BC in Whitby, Yorkshire, some 160 miles from where they were found.
Transport minister Keith Brown marked the early completion of the bypass yesterday by viewing some of the archaeological finds.
He said: “With the A75 Dunragit bypass already improving journey times and providing opportunities for business, leisure and tourism industries on this crucial route between Scotland, the rest of the UK and Europe – it is also helping shine a light on Scotland’s ancient past.
“The finds at Dunragit, which would have remained uncovered had the new bypass not been built, are truly stunning, and underline the importance of the value we place on meeting our environmental obligations as we plan and construct essential new infrastructure.”
The findings are currently being conserved and will undergo further analysis.
A report by Historic Scotland will be produced to describe and explain what has been discovered along the road.
Following on from the report, a decision will be made on where the various collections will be stored or put on display.
The Mesolithic period dates from the end of the last Ice Age.
The period between approximately 9000BC to 4500BC saw human groups spread throughout mainland and island Scotland. They lived by gathering and hunting.
The Neolithic period in Scotland spanned approximately 4500BC to 2000BC and is the period in which settled farming became common in Scotland
The Bronze Age dates from about 2500BC when metal-using and a “package” of other Continental novelties appeared in Scotland – and elsewhere in Britain – to around the 800BC, when iron objects and iron-using probably appeared. The Iron Age then lasted to about 500 AD.
by ALISTAIR MUNRO