Since the start of the Quaternary some 2.6 million years ago the Grampian Highlands have been glaciated many times.
At first, glaciers were restricted to the mountains, but during the last 750 000 years there has been a rhythmic growth and decay of large ice sheets in the middle latitudes of Europe and these covered much of the Scottish mainland (Boulton et al., 1991).
Experts say the vessels were used to serve a fermented cacao drink that was made from the sweet pulp of the plant.
The vessels were unearthed at sites in Puerto Escondido, Honduras.
Chemical and archaeological evidence has pushed back the earliest known use of cacao, the key ingredient of chocolate, by 500 years.
A fossil soil containing pollen of full interglacial aspect has been discovered at the base of a high river cliff at Dalcharn, near Cawdor (P915448; Walker et al., 1992).There are few documented sites where there is unequivocal evidence for depositional events predating the Main Late Devensian Glaciation and most occur in North-east Scotland (Gordon and Sutherland, 1993) (P915447).At Teindland, near Elgin, a fossil soil that has yielded both interglacial and interstadial pollen is overlain by deposits which have been classified by different workers as either solifluction deposits or till (Lowe, 1984).At Crossbrae, near Turriff, a thin layer of peat below soliflucted till has yielded minimal radiocarbon ages in the range of 44 000 to 47 000 BP.A former quarry site at Kirkhill, near Strichen, revealed a sequence of tills and fossil soils interbedded with sand and gravel, including solifluction deposits (Hall and Connell, 1991).
As climatic change has had a dominant influence on sedimentation during the Quaternary and there has been little species evolution on which to base biostratigraphical subdivisions, the epoch is divided into a series of climatostratigraphical stages.