Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Aerial view of the Neolithic crannog at Loch Bhorgastail, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides.

Prehistoric farmers toiling in about 3500 BC erected an island roughly the size of a basketball court, as well as a causeway, in Scotland’s Loch Bhorgastail. Credit: J. Benjamin/Flinders Univ.

Archaeology

This artificial island was built by farmers more than five millennia ago

Rocky outposts are much older than previously supposed and might have served ritual purposes.

Four engineered islands rising from Scottish lochs are more than 5,000 years old — a testament to the sweat and organizational skills of the early farmers who hauled tonnes of rock to build the structures.

Lakes and inlets in Scotland and Ireland are dotted with hundreds of purpose-built islets called crannogs. Scientists had long thought that almost all of these crannogs were erected after 800 BC.

Duncan Garrow at the University of Reading, UK, and Fraser Sturt at the University of Southampton, UK, studied pottery found in the waters around crannogs in the Outer Hebrides, a chain of islands off the Scottish coast, and surveyed two of the crannogs in detail. The researchers dated four crannogs to 3640–3360 BC. One crannog measures 26 metres by 22 metres and includes rocks weighing as much as 250 kilograms apiece.

The outposts’ purpose is unknown, but they may have served as sites for feasts and other rituals.

More Research Highlights...

Pulsar wind nebula illustration

Curving purple lines in this artist’s impression represent the magnetic field of a neutron star (white sphere) left over from a brilliant supernova. Credit: Salvatore Orlando/INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo

Astronomy and astrophysics

X-rays expose a clue to the mystery of the missing neutron star

Astronomers might have spotted the long-sought debris of a famous stellar explosion.
A bone fragment next to a dime

A bone fragment excavated in Southeast Alaska belonged to one of the earliest known domestic dogs in the Americas. Credit: Douglas Levere/University at Buffalo

Genomics

An ancient Alaskan dog’s DNA hints at an epic shared journey

To scientists’ surprise, a 10,000-year-old bone found in an Alaskan cave belonged to a domestic dog — one of the earliest known from the Americas.
Emissions billow from smokestacks at a coal-fired power plant as the sun sets, India.

Black carbon emitted by power plants and other sources in Asia wafts to the Arctic, where the pollution accelerates the melting of ice and snow. Credit: Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg/Getty

Atmospheric science

Soot from Asia travels express on a highway to the high Arctic

Black carbon from fuel combustion in South Asia bolsters the effects of climate change on northern ice and snow.
Prevotella copri bacteria, computer illustration

The gut bacterium Prevotella copri (artist’s impression) has been linked to a reduction in the health benefits of a diet that skimps on red meat in favour of fish and vegetables. Credit: Kateryna Kon/Science Photo Library

Microbiology

Trying a Mediterranean diet? Gut microbes might sway the outcome

The composition of a person’s microbiome could influence the health effects of swapping steak for vegetables and olive oil.
Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing

Search

Quick links