Search

FIELD WALKING

ANALYSIS OF RESULTS

PREHISTORY

Skip to each of these headings in the text below:
Introduction
Lower Palaeolithic
Late Upper Palaeolithic
Mesolithic
Mesolithic to Early Neolithic
Early Neolithic
Late Neolithic
Neolithic
Late Neolithic to Bronze Age
Discussion
Conclusions

INTRODUCTION

An attempt is made here to use the distribution of flint, stone axe heads and other lithic finds to gain information about the process and the distribution of prehistoric settlement of Bingham. The period covered is Palaeolithic to Bronze Age. The Iron Age, for which the evidence of occupation is in ceramics, is considered separately. The descriptions of flints have been taken from reports produced by Jenny Brown, with information on the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic provided by Dr Jacobi. These have been integrated with the analysis, the responsibility for which is entirely the author’s.

Prehistoric topography
An interpretation of the prehistoric topography of Bingham has been made using aerial photographs and both OS and geological maps (Figure 3.1). The main topographic element is a roughly east-west-tending, sinuous ridge lying to the south of the present A52, with a gentle slope to the south and a steep slope to the north.

In the north of the parish, mostly north of the railway line, is a large area of flat land that is thought to have been a lake formed shortly after the climax of the last Ice Age. The Triassic bedrock in this area contains gypsum, which dissolves easily in groundwater often causing local subsidence. Hollows formed this way either before the glacial period or after it when the climate was warming up, the permafrost had melted and groundwater began circulating for the first time in thousands of years. The melted ice from the retreating glaciers would have produced a great deal of surface water to form lakes in these subsidence hollows. The streams that fed the lake in Bingham can be inferred from the modern topography. They would have been small and unlikely to have provided the input necessary to maintain the lake as a body of open water for a long time after it was originally formed. The presence of datable flint tools on the lake deposit is one way of measuring the progress of its silting up. Also, the absence of flints of any age on the lake deposit might be inferred as indicating where open water remained throughout the prehistoric period. In Figure 3.1 this area is shown as blue; the silted up parts with flints on it are shown as marsh. Outflow streams that drained the lake after seasonal flooding events laid down wide spreads of alluvium in the east. These are now largely dry valleys. Nonetheless, first as a lake, then as marshes, and later as boggy ground, this area was an important topographical feature that has influenced human activity in the region up to the present day. One of the outstanding topographical features in the northern half of the parish is Parson’s Hill, which stands out as an island near the northern margin of the lake.

The River Smite, which forms part of the south-eastern parish boundary, was straightened in the late 19th century. Evidence from old maps and the spread of alluvium along the Smite suggests that prior to that it was a meandering river in a wide valley bottom. The tributary to it that marks most of the southern boundary of the parish, which is now a managed ditch, also has a spread of alluvium associated with it showing that it was once a natural stream.

Distribution of finds and age groups used
Humanly modified flints and stone provide the principal source of information about the periods from the Lower Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age. Scatters of flints are commonplace in the parish (Figure 3.2) and indicate a very long period of prehistoric activity. Several areas have been identified as important in the settlement history of the parish. These have been named and are shown on Figure 3.3.

Probable dates for a piece of flint are arrived at by studying the technology used to produce it and the condition of its surface. Thus, very old pieces will typically be rolled and battered, as might be expected after many thousands of years enduring whatever the elements may have thrown at them, such as cryoturbation and wind blasting. In more recent times, blade technology is typically used during the Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Earlier Neolithic, whilst flake technology, making extensive use of hard hammers, characterises the Later Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. For the Bingham assemblages the period headings and date ranges used are those proposed by Brown and Murphy (1997):

  • Earlier Neolithic: c 4000 BC – 2800 BC
  • Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age: c 2800 BC – 1500 BC
  • Early Bronze Age: c 2000 –1500 BC

The Middle and Later Bronze Age cannot be distinguished in Bingham from lithic assemblages.

For many of the fields walked the flint collections could only be categorised into one of the two broad divisions of Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic and Later Neolithic to Bronze Age. There are, however, tools that are well dated and can be attributed specifically to the Mesolithic, Earlier Neolithic, Later Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. Using these tools in conjunction with the overall character of the material found in a field it has been possible to produce a relatively refined chronology for the prehistoric settlement of Bingham.

For the purposes of this analysis the following stages have been used:

  • Lower Palaeolithic
  • Late Upper Palaeolithic
  • Mesolithic
  • Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic
  • Earlier Neolithic
  • Neolithic
  • Later Neolithic
  • Later Neolithic to Bronze Age

Density of scatters
The densities of flints calculated with respect to modern field boundaries have little relevance in a prehistoric context. In this study, areas of concentrations have been identified on distribution maps plotted on a 100 metre square grid using ArcMap and no attempt has been made to recalculate the values to make them conform with a 10 metres field walking protocol. Reasons why this practice is thought to be unsafe are given in the Introduction. The classes of density are chosen statistically for each plot using the Jenks method of defining break points. The result is a map that shows “hot spots” of relatively high density against decreasing background values. The actual density values of the “hot spots” vary with each period covered and cannot be interpreted further. However, their existence is considered to be of significance, probably indicating occupation sites. This method of defining sites for further enquiry is preferred over the statistical approach advocated by Medlycott (2005). The analysis of flint densities from a number of studies in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire suggests that there are significant break points in density data at 4 and 10 per hectare when walking at 10m spacing (Knight, Garton and Leary, 1998; Garton, 2002). At less than 4 per hectare the finds are usually the result of accidental loss. At over 10 per hectare the finds may indicate the proximity of a camp or settlement of some kind. With regard to Mesolithic scatters there is less certainty when walked at 20 metres. A Mesolithic campsite could occupy a space considerably less than 20 metres in diameter and scatters resulting from one might have been missed entirely in this project. Although these values have not been used directly in this study they provided a useful guide for interpreting the relevance of “hot spots”.

Source of materials
Where present, the cortex of the flint is generally worn and rolled, indicating a source derived from a river deposit. There is geological evidence that the area was once covered by an ice sheet (the Anglian Ice Age, about 450,000 years ago) and the resulting remanié deposits of the Oadby till (usually pebbles and cobbles left behind after the matrix to the till has been eroded and carried away) contain abundant pebbles and cobbles of flint (See Carney et al, 2002). Natural flint pebbles and cobbles, which have this source, are common in the fields around Bingham, some measuring several centimetres in diameter, thus providing an immediately local supply. In addition, flint pebbles characterise fluvial sands and gravels around Brocker Farm. These are thought to be greater than 100,000 years old (earlier than the last Ice Age). At the base of the alluvium along the River Smite a layer of frost-shattered flints has been observed in this area and along the River Smite in the south of Starnhill Farm many pieces of it are to be found at surface. It is thought that they were brought to the surface during the straightening of the River Smite in the 19th century and may not have been available as a resource in prehistoric times. Overall, the size of the worked pieces and nature of the raw materials is typical of other collections from the Trent Valley in Nottinghamshire, and most of the flint is almost certainly obtained locally from the gravels of the Trent Valley and associated drift deposits (Henson, 1989).

Sources for some tools or raw materials outside the area are indicated by the presence of Wolds-type flint, which originates in the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Wolds. While such material is present locally in the drift and alluvial deposits, large items may have been imported into the area and traded or exchanged. A scraper of Bull Head flint suggests trade or exchange bringing flint or finished artefacts from southern England. One tool, a small end-scraper, and a flake are made of black chert. This material is present in the Carboniferous rocks of Derbyshire and the drift deposits derived from them. Unworked pebbles of this material were picked up in the field and it is most likely that the worked items found were made from nodules obtained locally.


Dates in prehistory, climate change and vegetation

Date in years Before Present (cal BP)* Climatic event Archaeological time
460-430,000 Anglian glaciation or ice age Within Lower Palaeolithic
20,000 Climax of the Devensian glaciation or ice age  
15,000 End of Devensian cold phase  
15,000 -13,000 Warm period. Late-glacial Interstadial Late Upper Palaeolithic
13,000 - 11,500 Younger Dryas cold stage  
11,500 - 10,000 Warming period Start of Mesolithic
10,000 Beginning of the current, stable warm stage  
c8,500 Britain becomes an island  
8,200 Brief cooling event  
6,000   Start of Neolithic
4,000   Start of Bronze Age

Note: the dates for the Younger Dryas are taken from Roberts (1998)
* Calendar years are the equivalents to current calendar years that have been calculated from radiocarbon years. These are the measures of time gained from measuring the content of radioactive carbon (C14). The length of radiocarbon years varies through time and is converted to calendar years by a formula.

The climax of the Devensian glaciation marked the time after which the climate started to warm up, the ice began to melt and the edge of the ice sheet that covered much of England and Wales and all of Scotland began to retreat northwards. The area of England south of the edge of the ice, which includes Bingham, was possibly barren at this time, but as each year grew warmer the high summer sun experienced at our latitudes would keep the ground unfrozen for sufficiently long periods for alpine plants, grasses and low scrub to establish. Woodland of birch, pine and poplar had become established over much of England by 13,500 BP. During the Younger Dryas cold phase, named after the resilient alpine plant Dryas octopetala (mountain avens), there was a 1000 year relapse during which most of the woodland probably disappeared, leaving England mostly open tundra with grass, shrubs and some trees. This period ended suddenly and, after 11,500 BP, woodland slowly started to re-establish itself over Europe. By 9,000 years ago most of England was wooded and many of the species of tree we have now, such as birch, pine, oak, elm and hazel were becoming established. (See Mithen, 2003 for a general account of this period).

Reliability of results
Factors affecting visibility, such as intensity of ploughing, collector bias, crop density, recent deposition of alluvium and colluvium have all to be taken into account when evaluating the field information. Seven of the 97 fields yielded no flints at all. Three are on lake deposit where it might be expected that there might not be flints if there was open water throughout prehistoric time. Four were not. Of these one was unploughed when walked and there were patches of weeds that restricted visibility, but its neighbouring field was in good condition and also yielded no finds. Conditions in the other two fields were no different from the majority of fields walked, that is they were drilled and with some growth of wheat or barley. All of the fields were walked by a mixed team of volunteers among whom there were several with a reputation for finding flints. It is concluded that no flints were found in these fields because they existed at levels below the threshold for discovery in a 10% survey.

LOWER PALAEOLITHIC (before 250,000 years BP)

Dr R.M. Jacobi identified four finds as possibly from the Palaeolithic and one of these, a large thick flake from field 9890, he confidently assigned to the Lower Palaeolithic. Two of the possibles are from adjacent fields bordering the A52 in the northern part of Top Brackendale Farm (Figure 3.4). The fourth is from field 9375 in the south-western corner of the parish.

Putting a precise date on surface finds such as these is almost impossible. Flakes of this type can be produced at any time until the Bronze Age, and it is the condition of the piece that indicates its great antiquity. Field 9890, in which the large, thick flake was found, is on high ground, which means that the find could not have been laid down in river deposits. However, the field contains remanié deposits from the Oadby till, which was laid down during the Anglian glacial period. This was at its climax about 450,000 years ago. It is possible, therefore, that this flint was deposited by the ice, which might make it older than 450,000 years and probably made by Homo heidelbergensis. Being a simple flake, it cannot be attributed to any particular industry and it gives no information as to whether the technology of which it was a part included hand axes.

LATE UPPER PALAEOLITHIC (c15,000 – 13,000 years BP)

The Late Upper Palaeolithic period in Britain is confined to the Late-glacial Interstadial, 14,700 – 12,900 cal BP. The Mesolithic period followed, when the warm climatic phase we are currently living within began.

Central England was not covered in ice during the last Ice Age. The climate was cold and comparable to polar desert, except that our lower latitude gave us long summer days and high sun and short, often bright, winter days. Britain was a peninsula of Europe and as the summers became warmer the reindeer, probably present in sparse numbers, were joined by wild horses, red deer and wild cattle. This combination of animals made possible the presence of humans in Britain all the year round.

The earliest technological evidence is provided by blade assemblages containing the distinctive Creswell Point (obliquely blunted blade backed on the shorter margin), or the Cheddar Point (trapezoidal backed blade). These assemblages, collectively referred to as Magdalenian or Creswellian by Jacobi (1997) date from immediately before climatic warming at 14,700 cal BP and through the early warmest part of the Late-glacial Interstadial until about 14,100 cal BP.

These are the oldest dates possible for any of the Late Upper Palaeolithic finds collected in Bingham (Figure 3.4). There are only two of these, including one from an excluded 10 metres transect. Only 32402 from field 0179 near the southern parish boundary, is considered probably of this date; the other is less certain. A find from Bingham interpreted as a blank for a knife, to be worked up when needed and lodged in Nottingham University Museum, has been dated to this period. (See BHTA website for a picture). Its find spot is not precisely known.

Much of the evidence for the Magdalenian in Britain comes from not far away at Creswell Crags where people were hunting horses and trapping hares. Some of the wall engravings at Creswell Crags appear to be Late Upper Palaeolithic, and as such would be amongst the oldest art in the British Isles. Rich finds of Late Upper Palaeolithic flint have been made near Newark, at Farndon Fields, a site located during field walking. This site is on a flood plain of the River Trent.

MESOLITHIC (9,500 – 4,000 BC)

The warming of the climate that began at the end of the Younger Dryas, which coincides with the start of the Mesolithic period, made Britain, still a peninsula of Europe, an attractive place for hunter-gatherers to live and there is widespread evidence of human occupation throughout this time.

A number of finds from Bingham are likely to be Mesolithic, but only two that seem certain to be Mesolithic, an Early Mesolithic microlith and a blade fragment that cannot be dated specifically within the period. The microlith, which might represent a hunting loss, was found in an isolated spot in SE Spring Farm (field 1583). All the others are found in three localities (Figure 3.5). One group of three is south of Starnhill Farm buildings near the River Smite; another group of three on the south-eastern margin of the lake in fields around the Filling Station on the A52, while the third, an isolated blade fragment, was found near Lower Brackendale Farm. The three finds in south Starnhill, a blade, a re-used piece and a scraper, could be Mesolithic or even earlier and may indicate the proximity of a camp site. This field (2383) was very difficult to field walk as there are abundant natural flints in the southern part, including frost-shattered pieces from the basal layer of the Smite alluvium. This material would originally have been deposited on the Late Upper Palaeolithic land surface and it is likely that early worked flints with it may not have been spotted. In the area around the Filling Station there are three possible Mesolithic finds that are more widely spaced than in South Starnhill, though two are close together. All are parts of small, neat blades. As this is a lakeside site these also might indicate the proximity of a Mesolithic campsite.

MESOLITHIC TO EARLIER NEOLITHIC (9,500 – 2800 BC)

The blade technology that characterised the Late Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic extended into the Earlier Neolithic and a large number of finds are in assemblages that contain no diagnostic Mesolithic or Earlier Neolithic tools and could be attributed to either. While there are singular occurrences scattered about the southern part of the parish, the majority of finds attributable to this technology is in a broad band along the north-east parish boundary. Three other areas have fairly concentrated scatters. These four main areas, of which three are around the lake, are:

  • NE parish boundary
  • Filling Station fields
  • Whin Hill
  • SE Spring Farm

NE parish boundary
The largest concentration of undated finds in the parish extends in a broad band from the Margidunum roundabout along the parish boundary to the railway line, with particularly high densities on Parson’s Hill and the fields to the north west of it (Figure 3.5). The band includes areas that were marginal to the lake and on the lake itself. Within this band there are four dated Early Bronze Age tools on Parson’s Hill and four Neolithic finds on or close to Parson’s Hill. However, there are many finds generated by blade technology and categorised as Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic, throughout the length of the band.

The density of finds on the lake deposit is always less than on the fields around it. Parts of the lake were completely silted up at some time during the Mesolithic period, but some of the flint scatters might indicate areas of periodic drying out of the boggy ground or marshes that must have surrounded the areas of open water. The lake and its marshes were clearly attractive to the people who made these flint tools and it is possible that most of the flint scatters around the lake are indicative of Mesolithic hunter-gatherer visits, camps or settlements, whether semi-permanent or seasonal. Later, dated flints here are so uncommon that they must represent casual losses by hunters or visitors with no indication at all that there may have been later settlements here until, perhaps, the Bronze Age on Parson’s Hill itself. However, apportioning the undated flints either to the Bronze Age or Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic, though critical in this assessment is impossible to do.

Filling Station fields
In the fields to the west, south and the east of the Filling station on the A52, which is on the south-eastern margin of the lake, is a cluster of mainly Late Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic flints with probable Mesolithic blades among them and a considerable amount of undated material. However, unlike along the north eastern boundary of the parish there are dated finds here from later periods.

In these fields, 1695, 2095, 2093 and 1593, only 1695 has a sufficiently high density to suggest the possibility of a habitation site (13.9 finds per hectare calculated as for a 20% survey), but the finds range through the Neolithic, contain undated material and cannot be tied down to a narrower time range. The full extent of this possibly inhabited area cannot be determined. The field to the east, which contains the Filling Station, is pasture and was a brickyard in the nineteenth century with the surface much disturbed. Further west there is housing, and to the south runs the A52. While it is likely that there was Mesolithic hunter-gatherer activity in this area, there also seems to be the possibility that the later scatters indicate that it became a settled area at the end of the Mesolithic and stayed as such through the Neolithic.

Whin Hill
In field 9703, just north of the railway line, a tight cluster of Late Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic flints was found actually on the western end of the lake deposit. The deposit here is no more than 50 cm thick, suggesting that this area was among the first parts of the lake to be silted up. Apart from two undated flints there are no others of any age associated with these and the area around the site is barren of flints. The possibility that this marks the proximity of a Mesolithic hunter-gather site is quite strong.

South-east Spring Farm
Three fields, 1583, 1183 and the southern part of 1184, on south-facing slopes along the tributary of the River Smite that marks the parish boundary, have a particularly high concentration of finds from all periods. The solitary Early Mesolithic microlith found in the parish, probably a hunting loss, came from here and was found among a scatter of Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic flints. There is a fairly high density of undated flints in these fields as well as unequivocal Earlier Neolithic and Later Neolithic or Bronze Age tools. This area is clearly one of a very long period of activity, if not actual occupation. This raises the possibility that the flints fashioned using blade technology here and broadly categorised as Late Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic might, in fact, be associated with the Earlier Neolithic tools identified in this area and not be indicative of Late Mesolithic hunter-gatherer activity as is suggested for similar assemblages at the lake margin. The density of finds in these fields is high enough to indicate the possibility of Neolithic habitations hereabouts, but as at the Filling Station there are no parts of it where the dating can be more refined and target areas of possible settlement identified.

Conclusions
What is striking about the distribution of Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic finds is that they are concentrated heavily around the lake margin and on the lake area itself. In other parts of the parish such finds occur only in significant numbers in SE Spring Farm. In addition, in the lake area it is only around the Filling Station that there is a sufficiently high concentration of dated Neolithic finds to indicate that activity continued in this area, which may even have become settled. In the other places around the lake there are practically no later dated finds. Information from the areas marginal to the lake within Bingham town is missing, but it seems that on field walking evidence the Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic scatters on the west, north and east of the lake probably indicate Mesolithic hunter-gather activity, while the scatter at the Filling Station seems to have been the nucleus for a settled area that developed in the Earlier Neolithic period and continued beyond. At SE Spring Farm there is also a considerable amount of later material. This may make the Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic finds in these two areas, Filling Station and SE Spring Farm, more likely to be Earlier Neolithic than Late Mesolithic.

EARLIER NEOLITHIC (4000 – 2800BC)

Dated Earlier Neolithic tools associated with assemblages of material made using blade technology that contain nothing that might be interpreted as from the Mesolithic period occur mostly in the area south of the A52 (Figure 3.6) both on the ridge itself or the south-facing slopes.

The greatest concentrations of Earlier Neolithic finds are in fields around Lower Brackendale Farm and south of Whitefields Farm (field 0179).

There are fairly low densities of Earlier Neolithic finds in SE Spring Farm, in the Filling Station fields and West Starnhill where they are associated with proportionately larger numbers of undated finds or finds that can be attributed no more closely than to the Neolithic. This makes it impossible to say anything more than that there was activity here during the Earlier Neolithic.

A small group in Granby Lane is associated only with Later Neolithic to Bronze Age material.

South Starnhill also has a low-density scatter associated with flints that can be dated no more closely than Neolithic. Together, these are of sufficiently high density to indicate the possibility of habitation.

Lower Brackendale Farm
In this part of the parish, the far south-western corner, there are two “hot spots” with finds densities of 24-39 finds per hectare at 10%. One is in field 9278 the other in field 9676. There are few flints in these fields that do not fit well with an Earlier Neolithic age.

In field 9278, 90 pieces of worked flint reflect a blade technology with the orderly development of cores and careful preparation and curation of platforms, to produce mainly blades, blade-like flakes, and bladelets. A date in the Earlier Neolithic rather than earlier is supported by the form and type of the tools. Only one corticated blade 33756 is suggested as being earlier, perhaps a Mesolithic piece, and there are few that are later.

Blade and bladelet cores, small flake cores and tools such as a distal truncation, short end-scrapers, a denticulate with inverse retouch, a knife and serrated blade fit well with Earlier Neolithic. None of the remaining tools is diagnostic of date, but an Earlier Neolithic date is the likeliest. A probable stone axe fragment is dated to the Neolithic. A large edge-retouched knife made in Wolds-type flint is most likely to be Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age, as are a flake core, a notched piece and a polished fragment from an unidentified flint tool.

In the other field (9676) 122 pieces of worked flint were recovered, most of which exhibit the characteristics seen in blade technologies dating to the Earlier Neolithic or earlier. Bladelet and blade cores with platform preparation predominate: single platform cores, alternate platform cores, opposed cores and cores with two platforms at right angles. Core rejuvenation pieces such as flancs de nucléus and crested blades are typical of knapping in these early periods, as efforts are made to develop and maintain the core platforms. Blades, bladelets and blade-like flakes are frequent, often with bashed and abraded butts. The most likely date for all the material from this field is Earlier Neolithic as there are no Mesolithic tools. A leaf arrowhead and possible laurel leaf fragment are classically dated to the Earlier Neolithic. Also likely to belong at this date are a piercer made on a partially crested piece, a simple end-and-side-scraper with abraded butt, a large horseshoe scraper made on a primary flake, a wedge with abraded platform edge and distal truncation.

A flake of greenstone, presumably from a polished stone axe dates generally to the Neolithic, while a few pieces could date from later in the Neolithic, or into the Bronze Age. These include multi-directional flake cores for example, an invasively retouched fragment and a fragment from an edge-polished piece.

A third field, 9375, which lies to the south of 9278, has one piece possibly dating to the Lower Palaeolithic and a retouched piece on a thermal that could be Late Neolithic or later, but all the other 27 finds fit well into the Earlier Neolithic.

The distribution of the finds in this area seems to indicate two nucleated points with the finds density falling off away from them and towards each other. This raises the possibility that there are two settlement sites here, but they need not have been concurrent. The relative scarcity of both older and younger material here implies that this area was newly settled in the Earlier Neolithic, but that the people moved on to new dwelling sites after this time.

South of Whitefields Farm (field 0179)
40 pieces of worked flint were recovered with the high point showing 6 to 12 finds per hectare. As in Lower Brackendale the high point is surrounded by lower values, which identifies a small, tightly defined area. Many of the pieces show the characteristics of blade technology found in the Earlier Neolithic or earlier, such as crested pieces, blades, and blade-like flakes including one with platform edge abrasion. Simple short end-scrapers on primary flakes, a chunky end-and-side-scraper made on a core rejuvenation flake and cores with two neatly developed and faceted alternate platforms producing bladelets, point to a date in the Earlier Neolithic. Apart from a multi-directional flake core, which might be Later Neolithic, nothing from this field is demonstrably later. One piece could be Late Upper Palaeolithic.

Like the fields around Lower Brackendale Farm this assemblage seems to have been created in an area not previously occupied and not inhabited after the Earlier Neolithic. The surrounding fields have relatively low densities of finds of any date and do not seem to have been inhabited after the Earlier Neolithic.

LATER NEOLITHIC (2800 – 2000BC)

The flake technology employed in the Later Neolithic continues into the Bronze Age and differs significantly from that employed in the Earlier Neolithic. This later technology focuses on the production of flakes using hard hammer technology. The absence of any diagnostic Bronze Age tools in some assemblages might suggest that these assemblages may be confined to the Later Neolithic.

Later Neolithic material has been catalogued in the Filling Station fields in which there is also earlier material. The scatter here is thin and on its own is not indicative of settlement. In SE Spring Farm no Late Neolithic tools were found, but there are many undated finds and they are concentrated in small areas.

In the field immediately to the north of SE Spring Farm (field 1184) there is a low finds density of Late Neolithic material with no Bronze Age tools. This might be suggesting an expansion northwards out of the area of SE Spring Farm occupied since the Late Mesolithic or Earlier Neolithic, but the density is not sufficient to be able to target a site of potential settlement.

South of Starnhill Farm is another area with a few Late Neolithic tools among abundant material that cannot be better ascribed than to the Neolithic.

Only NE Starnhill Farm (field 2388) has a finds density and distribution that might imply settlement (Figure 3.7). There are two high points here with 100 metre squares of 9-11 finds per hectare.

NE Starnhill Farm (Field 2388)
Among the 132 pieces are some that are present throughout the Neolithic. These include a polished stone axe found on the track to the west of the field and flakes from polished flint axe(s). One of these has been fashioned to make a petit tranchet type chisel arrowhead (Green, 1980, 101) a typical Later Neolithic tool.

Scrapers and related miscellaneous retouched pieces are the dominant type of tool from this field, including fragments of failed bifacial implements, a robust flake retouched to form a knife, wedges, a denticulate and a serrated flake. A date in the Later Neolithic seems appropriate for all of these pieces. The debitage includes flakes with large plain butts removed using the hard hammer technique. Blades and blade-like flakes are few and generally irregular, lacking the distinctive elements of blade technology. The complete cores are generally exhausted or small and formless. This, again, all suggests later prehistoric production, and a date with the tools in the Later Neolithic seems appropriate.

A wider variety of flint types is present in quantity in this field than any other. There are larger amounts of speckled grey, and Wolds-type, flint, although this need not imply trade or exchange from outside the area as the pieces are all small enough to have originated from nodules found in the local drift. However the assemblage also contains three polished flint axe fragments and flint of sufficient size for the production of axes is not found locally. The axe(s) from which these fragments came were almost certainly exchanged or traded in from the Lincolnshire or Yorkshire Wolds. Another piece is knapped from a distinctive Bull Head flint from the distinctive Eocene beds of south-east of England (R Jacobi, pers. comm.). The implication of established exchange or trading links fits well with a Late Neolithic date.

The exceptions to this Late Neolithic dating are a crested blade and used bladelet with an abraded butt, which could point to slightly earlier activity in this field, possibly in the Late Mesolithic or Earlier Neolithic. There are no Bronze Age tools from this field. In all, the evidence suggests minimal activity before the Later Neolithic and none afterwards. If this were an area of settlement it was confined to the Later Neolithic.

NEOLITHIC (4000 – 2000 BC

Large assemblages of finds that contain elements of both the Earlier and Later Neolithic and debitage that could not be specifically attributed to either were collected from three fields (Figure 3.8).

Lower Brackendale Farm field 9274
This field is in the corner of the parish and to the south and south west of the fields with very high Earlier Neolithic “hot spots”. 19 pieces of worked flint were recovered among which is a conical core, two neat, simple short end-scrapers and a blade-like flake, which suggest activity in the Earlier Neolithic, while a flake core, a flake with large platform removed by hard hammer and an end-scraper with bifacial working at the distal, suggest a later date. The debitage cannot be attributed.

With the highest density falling in the 3 – 6 finds per hectare range, this is unlikely be considered as a settlement site, but the field is on the parish boundary and fields to the south and west have not been walked. It is possible that the occupants of the Earlier Neolithic site in field 9676 moved westwards in the later part of the Neolithic.

Top Brackendale Farm field 8982
This very long field is adjacent on the north to the Lower Brackendale field 9278, which had a very high density of Earlier Neolithic material. 107 pieces of worked flint were recovered. As with field 9274 there are finds that can be dated to both the Earlier and Later Neolithic. Probably attributable to the blade traditions of the Earlier Neolithic are single platform bladelet cores and a multi-directional core with platform preparation. There are a number of bladelets and blades, many with small, abraded butts. The technology employed in the making of some of the tools, such as a simple end-scraper on a blade with prepared butt, a short end-scraper with concave working edge, an edge-retouched knife with notch made on a flake with a faceted butt, used blades with abraded butts and probably proximal truncations suggests that they belong with this dating.

Other pieces are suggestive of a date in the Later Neolithic. Large plain platforms produced using hard hammer are evident on unretouched flakes. An end-scraper and several other tools, all made on thermal pieces, including a large fabricator, a semi-invasively retouched scraper and a notched piece fit with this later date.

A fragment from an arrowhead, either leaf-shaped, classically dated to the Earlier Neolithic, or barbed-and-tanged and belonging in the Early Bronze Age (Green, 1980) was collected. A triangular arrowhead, which may be a type in itself or, as could be the case here, may be an unfinished barbed-and-tanged arrowhead with a Later Neolithic/Bronze Age date was also found in this field.

Like field 9274, the density of demonstrable Later Neolithic finds is insufficient on its own to be certain of habitations of that period here. However, there is strong indication of activity throughout the Neolithic, with a high point of 11 – 22 finds per hectare in a spot near the southern end of the field. The fact that these finds cannot be categorised better than to the Neolithic inhibits interpretation, but taking the Neolithic distribution here in conjunction with the desertion of the site in field 9278 after the Earlier Neolithic it looks as if the settlement might have shifted northwards into this area in the Later Neolithic.

South Starnhill Farm
The third area of material spanning the whole of the Neolithic is field 2383 south of Starnhill Farm. 133 pieces of worked flint were recovered. Mesolithic flints were collected in this field and there is a range of Earlier Neolithic pieces including short end-scrapers, a flanc de nucléus, a core tablet, a crested flake, blades and fragments, some probably utilised, with small acute platforms, cores that have produced bladelets and a fragment from a polished flint axe retouched to form a leaf-shaped arrowhead, which is classically dated to the Earlier Neolithic (Green, 1980). The number of cores is small and they are typologically undistinguished. The majority have produced flakes, many are multi-directional, and it seems probable that they belong later in the Neolithic. A fragment from a small polished greenstone axe, which has been used as a core could belong anywhere in the Neolithic, and this is the closest dating that can be offered for most of the remaining tools: scrapers, a scraper with notch, miscellaneous retouched pieces, notched pieces, a denticulate sharpening flake and a fabricator.

The majority of pieces are likely to be the product of technology as is seen in the Later Neolithic or later, though there is no evidence in the form of diagnostic tools for activity in the Bronze Age. The highest density of finds is in the west, sited on a concentration of Earlier Neolithic finds and it seems that a general date in the Neolithic would be most appropriate for this field as a whole, with indications of settlement here throughout this period.

LATER NEOLITHIC TO BRONZE AGE (2800 – 750BC)

The hard hammer flake technology that characterises the Later Neolithic continued into the Bronze Age and many of the flint scatters collected contain no diagnostic tools of either of these ages. They occur throughout the parish (Figure 3.9), but are most heavily concentrated south of the A52. The highest density of finds is nowhere near as high as for the Earlier Neolithic; the top range is 11 – 19 finds per hectare as opposed to 34 – 39 in the Earlier Neolithic. Within several scatterings of undifferentiated Later Neolithic or Bronze Age finds are small scatters of Early Bronze Age tools and nothing that may indicate an earlier date. The key areas (see Figure 3.3) are:

  • Parson’s Hill
  • Granby Lane
  • NW Starnhill Farm
  • West Starnhill
  • East of Tithby Road junction with theA52
  • North of Whitefields Farm
  • SE Spring Farm
  • South Spring Farm
  • Saxondale roundabout
  • Lower Brackendale Farm

Parson’s Hill (field 1308)
There are several tools that suggest a date in the Later Neolithic or later. Notable among them are scrapers with plain platforms and hard hammer method of removal from the core. Scrapers on thermal fragments and an end and side scraper on a thick primary flake also fit this date range. A large, flawed multi-directional core and a smaller one, employ technology that suggests a similar date range. A small number of thumbnail-size scrapers were dated more closely to the Early Bronze Age.

It is not possible to assess how much of the abundant undated material from this field is of this age or relates to the Mesolithic/Earlier Neolithic when this area was last intensively occupied. The overall density of finds for the field (1308) is only 6.4 per hectare, but they are concentrated into smaller areas of high density, which coincide with crop marks on air photographs possibly suggesting later settlement. The crop marks are also closely associated with Iron Age and Romano-British pottery. It is difficult to interpret Parson’s Hill, largely because of the large amount of undated material found here. There was clearly activity throughout the period Later Mesolithic/Earlier Neolithic through to Bronze Age but the densities of dated finds are too low to be sure of occupation here for any particular period.

Granby Lane
In field 2491 47 pieces of worked flint were recovered, including one Early Bronze Age tool. It has a high spot of 6 – 10 finds per hectare. The high proportion of flakes to blades suggests that most of the pieces from this field are Later Neolithic or later. The cores are generally formless, lack platform preparation, and are multi-directional. There is evidence of the use of hard hammer, typical of the technology employed in this period. A thumbnail-sized scraper suggests an Early Bronze Age date. Only four of the finds are thought to have been Earlier Neolithic.

This field lies to the east of NE Starnhill (field 2388), in which the majority of finds are Late Neolithic. It is also a field with a good collection of Iron Age and Roman pottery. It seems to suggest that at the end of the Neolithic period or during the Bronze Age there was an eastwards migration out of the area of field 2388 onto new ground.

North-west Starnhill Farm
In fields 1690 and 1786 there are very few finds that do not fall into the category of Later Neolithic or Bronze Age.

In field 1690 there are only 29 pieces of worked flint, almost all of which are suggested to belong in the Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age. These include a fragment of a plano-convex knife, multi-directional flake cores and a flake with plain platform removed by the use of hard hammer. Other tools including a bifacial fragment, a notch and miscellaneous retouched pieces, which are not closely dateable, but are perhaps most likely to belong at this date. The exceptions to this dating are a fragment from a leaf-shaped arrowhead, classically dated to the Earlier Neolithic (Green, 1980), and two blades, which may belong with it. The arrowhead was perhaps a casual hunting loss.

Field 1786 lies to the south of 1690. Again there are no unequivocal Early Bronze Age tools, but except for a single Late Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic piece, there is nothing older that Late Neolithic or Bronze Age. The high spot has a finds density in the 11 – 19 finds per hectare range. The one piece that does not fit into Late Neolithic or Bronze Age is the distal fragment of a nicely made blade with an abraded butt, attributes generally indicative of greater age; a Late Mesolithic/Earlier Neolithic date seems most likely for this piece. Among the rest nothing is diagnostic of date, except that the flintwork has characteristics suggesting production in the Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age. There are some nicely made, elegant scrapers, but there are also some chunkier, robust scrapers, a knife, a fabricator and miscellaneous retouched pieces, many displaying the ad hoc usage of flint typical of collections from this period. There is a high percentage of tools to debitage, and several of the tools have large plain butts removed using hard hammers, again characteristics of later prehistoric flint collections. Five pieces are best described as ‘wedges’. These may be bone-working tools, or the products of knapping small, difficult nodules using an anvil. They fit quite comfortably with a Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age date, although they are found at any period. Two cores are broad single platform cores from which small flakes were produced. A flake core has been made on a small flake. Other core fragments are formless but also have flake removals. These cores all support a Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age dating. The few blades are irregular and, where present, the butts on flakes and blades are generally cortical or plain and removed using hard hammer technique, again fitting well with a date in the Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age.

These fields are peripheral to the Late Neolithic centres NE Starnhill, SE Spring Farm and the Filling Station. They might represent an outward expansion from any one or all of these settled areas. The absence of any distinctive Later Neolithic or Early Bronze Age tools makes it difficult to be sure when this happened, but the high density of finds within field 1786 seems to indicate that there was a settlement here.

West Starnhill
This small area contains a large proportion of undated finds, but a Bronze Age tool was recovered among Earlier Neolithic and Later Neolithic or Bronze Age material. The area is situated to the south west of the Filling Station fields and west of NW Starnhill and may indicate a small area of stability throughout the Neolithic into the Bronze Age.

East of Tithby Road junction
A large field at the junction of Tithby Road and the A52 (field 0590) has only 18 pieces of humanly modified flint. There is certainly no indication of habitations of any age here, but there is a small scatter of dated Bronze Age material. Three pieces point strongly to activity in the Early Bronze Age: a small non-fancy barbed -and-tanged arrowhead, which has been invasively retouched; a thumbnail sized scraper; and a burnt piece, which is probably another thumbnail sized scraper. There is also a turned core, which could fit at this date. The arrowhead is probably a hunting loss, while the other finds may indicate hunting-related activities in the area.

This field lies to the north of a block of three fields just north of Spring Farm containing only Later Neolithic or Bronze Age finds. These fields, 0484, 0487 and 0686 have low finds densities, but a small concentration in the north within fields 0686 and 0487 has a high point of 6 – 10 finds per hectare and may have been a habitation centre.

SE Spring Farm
The group of fields, 1583,1183 and the southern part of 1184 has dated flints from the Mesolithic to Bronze Age and is the most difficult in the parish to interpret and come to any conclusions about habitation sites. Though many of the finds in them are not dateable, there are enough that fall into the category of Later Neolithic or Bronze Age to generate a high spot of 11 –19 finds per hectare. There are several tools that are definitely Early Bronze Age among the hard-hammer technology debitage, which suggests that activity continued here into the Bronze Age and there might well have a been a site of habitation here at that time.

South Spring Farm
Field 0881, which is immediately to the west of SE Spring Farm, has very little material older than Later Neolithic or Bronze Age. It contains one of the most interesting later flints. One of the two polished pieces from this field is a fragment of a polished discoidal knife, a prestigious tool found in Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age collections. Another polished piece could be another fragment of a polished discoidal knife, but possibly the tip of a partly polished axe, which is a Neolithic tool. The remaining tools all seem to fit into a Later Neolithic or Bronze Age date including three large slim scrapers. Two small thumbnail sized scrapers are typically Early Bronze Age, while a piercer fits within this horizon, as do the cores and remaining debitage. A microdenticulate, most likely to be Earlier Neolithic, is the only older tool.

There is a clearly defined area around a high point with 11 – 19 finds per hectare right on the stream that defines the parish boundary. The close proximity of the dated Early Bronze Age tools to this site suggests that it may have been a habitation site.

North of Whitefields Farm
A block of three fields, 0185, 9985 and 9987, to the north of the farm buildings contained dated Early Bronze Age tools among worked flints attributable to the Later Neolithic to Bronze Age. There is a concentration in 9987 and the northern part of 0185 with a high point of 6 – 11 finds per hectare. Many of the finds, particularly in field 9985, cannot be dated, but there is no indication that any may be older than Later Neolithic. Key dateable finds include an Early Bronze Age thumbnail-sized scraper made on a flake with plain platform and hard hammer means of removal from field 0185 and three thumbnail scrapers from 9987. Others that fit into the Late Neolithic or Bronze Age category are an exhausted core that has been retouched at its distal end to form a thick scraper, a fragment of plano-convex knife and several cores that all appear to have been turned to gain maximum removals, without the development of true platforms. The presence of definitive Early Bronze Age pieces and absence of anything that is unequivocally Late Neolithic suggests that the scatters in these fields are Early Bronze Age and the possibility of a habitation here cannot be ruled out.

Three fields to the north, west and north west, 9489, 9687 and 9890, contain only a single find diagnostic of the Early Bronze Age. In field 9890 many of the finds are undated, but unlikely to be older than Late Neolithic. Nearly all the rest are Later Neolithic or Bronze Age. There are no particularly high concentrations in these fields, but they seem to be an extension of the activity seen in the block to the south.

Saxondale roundabout
Field 8793, south of the roundabout, is another with little evidence of activity earlier than Later Neolithic or Bronze Age. Only two finds, one in this field and one in the neighbouring field 8591 indicate activity in the Earlier Neolithic or earlier. One thumbnail scraper is most likely to be Early Bronze Age, while the remaining tools are suggested as Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age. The finds scatter is low density, but the dated find is associated with a grid square with 3 – 5 finds per hectare and may be a focus for activity here.

Lower Brackendale Farm
There is a low-density scatter in three fields around the farm. Two of them, 9676 and 9278, have dense concentrations of Earlier Neolithic material, but the third field 9479 has one possible Earlier Neolithic piece, while all the rest are Later Neolithic or Bronze Age. This general area had been the focus of settlement in the Earlier Neolithic with little evidence other than these finds of continuing activity at the end of the Neolithic into the Bronze Age. Finds densities for these fields are too low to indicate habitations.

DISCUSSION

Palaeolithic
There is no evidence from this survey to suggest that any of the finds attributed either to the Lower Palaeolithic or Late Upper Palaeolithic are anything other than casual losses.

Mesolithic
The distribution of Mesolithic and Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic finds (Figure 3.5) strongly suggests that the main focus of activity at this time was around the lake, possibly indicating activity by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. The Mesolithic finds south of Starnhill Farm could be either hunting losses or indicative of a hunter-gatherer camp.

Two of the areas are difficult to interpret. These are the Filling Station fields, where there are Mesolithic finds that very likely indicate hunter-gatherer activity, but also Late Mesolithic through to Later Neolithic finds, and around SE Spring Farm, where there is a solitary Mesolithic microlith among Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic and later material. In neither of these two areas is there a finds density for any age group that may be indicative of settlement until the Later Neolithic/Bronze Age at SE Spring Farm. Here, not only are there high densities of finds of this age range, but there are many undated flints. The Mesolithic presence in the two areas is not doubted, but the interpretation of the Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic assemblages is uncertain. They could indicate Late Mesolithic hunter-gatherer activity or they could represent an Earlier Neolithic settlement. Further work is necessary in both areas to make progress on this.

Neolithic
Earlier Neolithic settlement onto new ground seems probable in three places: two near Lower Brackendale Farm and one at South Whitefields Farm. These areas provide the strongest evidence of settlement for all periods because of their very high finds densities, up to 39 finds per hectare from a 10% survey. There is no evidence that these three sites were occupied concurrently; it is most likely that they were not and that they mark settlement drift of a single community over the 1000 or so years that the Earlier Neolithic covers. In all three, there is no evidence of activity of any significance after the Earlier Neolithic, but at Lower Brackendale there is evidence that the original settlements could have moved to the west and the north during the Later Neolithic. At South Whitefields the settlement seems just to have ended in the Earlier Neolithic.

There is a suggestion of possible settlements in south Starnhill Farm and SE Spring Farm. These are the two most difficult areas to interpret. SE Spring Farm has a range of flints dating from the Mesolithic to Early Bronze Age, locally in very high concentrations, and there is a high proportion of undated material from here. It is difficult to believe that such concentrations would not indicate a settlement site, but one cannot be demonstrated until the Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age.

At South Starnhill the story is different. Excluding the Mesolithic flints, the finds here are entirely Neolithic, but they span the whole period. Nonetheless, there is a suggestion that there might have been a settlement in the western part of this area at some time during the Neolithic.

The only area with a high enough density of Later Neolithic finds to suggest settlement is NE Starnhill Farm. Overall, however, Later Neolithic material is found in a much wider area than the Earlier Neolithic, suggesting either population increase or movement of settlement areas or both.

Bronze Age
The Later Neolithic to Earlier Bronze Age assemblages, many with Bronze Age tools, generally occur in areas with no previous indications of occupation. Exceptions are SE Spring Farm, Lower Brackendale, the Filling Station fields and parts of Parson’s Hill and the NE parish boundary.

In the SE Spring Farm area there are Bronze Age tools, suggesting continuity into this period here and a high spot of 11-19 finds per hectare of Later Neolithic/Bronze Age with Bronze Age tools that could be indicative of a settlement. At Lower Brackendale the Later Neolithic to Bronze Age material is found within and around the areas of intense Earlier Neolithic assemblages. There are no Bronze Age tools among them and it is speculative whether this is a Bronze Age assemblage or something slightly earlier. Something similar can be concluded about the Filling Station fields. On Parson’s Hill the presence of Bronze Age tools is undoubted, but scant earlier material suggests continued activity of a low level here from the Mesolithic. The finds density of the Bronze Age material, however, is too low to be certain of settlement, but it would be odd if there were not one here, in such an isolated position so close to important resources and Parson’s Hill has one of the highest concentrations of undatable finds in the parish.

Of the areas with no or very little evidence of prior activity, Granby Lane, NW Starnhill, West Starnhill, South Spring Farm, North Whitefields Farm and Saxondale roundabout all have dated Bronze Age tools and it is considered that because of this, and because they also occupy new ground, it is most likely that these assemblages are Bronze Age rather than earlier.

The use of flints diminished during the Bronze Age and in the absence of any pottery, metallic or landform evidence nothing can be said about the later Bronze Age. The best evidence for this period comes from Margidunum, where Todd (1969) found an antler cheek-piece for a horse harness that is a type well known in Bronze Age and Iron Age deposits throughout Europe, though not well known in England. Also from Margidunum are two Bronze Age copper alloy socketed axe heads (see BHTA website for picture and details). These cannot be attributed to any particular period in the Bronze Age. Parson’s Hill, Granby Lane Junction and Lower Brackendale all have a strong Iron Age signature and, with Margidunum, show the strongest possibility of continuity from the Bronze Age into the Iron Age and then the Roman period.

CONCLUSIONS

Taking account of the limitations of the data, the pattern of distribution appears to be telling a story that has some logic to it:

  • Lower Palaeolithic, Late Upper Palaeolithic and Early Mesolithic hunters visited the area, but there is no evidence of encampments.
  • Mesolithic hunter-gatherer activity seems to have been concentrated mainly around the lake with one site near the River Smite.
  • With the possible exception of the site near the A52 Filling Station the Earlier Neolithic farmers seem to have settled entirely in the south of the parish. There is reasonably good evidence for three sites around Lower Brackendale Farm, which may not have been occupied concurrently, and weak evidence for sites in SE Spring Farm and South Starnhill. All of these sites are on similar geology and would have been amenable to agriculture. They have sandy clayey soil on south-facing slopes and a good supply of fresh water. All except the Filling Station site are along a watercourse that marks the southern boundary of the parish and which appears to have been the axis for early settlement.
  • There appears to have been some expansion of the core Earlier Neolithic settled areas during the Later Neolithic out of the earlier settled areas around Lower Brackendale Farm, SE Spring Farm and South Starnhill, all utilising the drainage system along the southern parish boundary. Settlement at this time onto new ground, higher up the interfluve, is evident only in NE Starnhill.
  • Later Neolithic/Bronze Age assemblages containing no or very little earlier material are widespread. Several scatters contain Early Bronze Age tools. Some of them are high on the interfluve into areas that are apparently less attractive to live in than along the watercourse in the south of the parish. However, an examination of old topographic maps shows that they are closely associated with farm ponds that may mark the sites of springs in earlier times. While there can be no certainty about this, it seems most likely that these scatters are largely Bronze Age and indicate an expansion of the area of occupation and other activity likely to have been stimulated by population increase.
  • Some of the sites with demonstrable Early Bronze Age tools became the foci for development in the Iron Age and later. This may reflect on the increasing population limiting the potential for moving settlements and causing the people to settle in one place, even to defend it.

Home Page | About Us | Links | Contact Us | Newsletter

Site developed by Ambrow Limited | Published by the Bingham Heritage Trails Association | All content is © BHTA
for site credits click here

Back to
top of page