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FIELD WALKING

DESCRIPTION OF FINDS

FLINTS

Skip to the following headings:
Condition of the pieces
Materials
Lower Palaeolithic
Late Upper Palaeolithic
Mesolithic to Early Neolithic
Neolithic
Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age
Early Bronze Age
Undated
Middle Bronze Age to Iron Age

The parish map with field numbers can be accessed by clicking here

Introduction

The collection of flint was examined by Jenny Brown of Trent & Peak Archaeology with advice from Dr Roger Jacobi of the British Museum. A basic catalogue was created, detailing the material, any burning or cortication, the form of each piece, the nature of any tools and any other pertinent information such as plough damage. Categories were chosen to highlight the diagnostic features of the assemblage. Complete flakes and blades were measured for length/breadth ratios. Data were recorded in a manner to facilitate comparisons with other collections from the county. An explanation of the terms used to describe the pieces and the methods of manufacture can be found in Waddington (2004) and Butler (2005). Field-by field-descriptions and a complete catalogue for each season were delivered to the project by Jenny Brown. This section is based on the information provided in these reports.

Condition of the pieces

Most of the flint from this collection is mechanically damaged to some degree, as is frequently seen in field-walking collections, and this makes identification of worked pieces more difficult. However it was observed that the collection also contains a few very sharp pieces, which can have only recently been brought to the surface, (notably 33593* from field 9676, and core tablet 32402 from field 0179). It would appear that in these fields the plough is now going deeper and reaching earlier undisturbed deposits.

* This is the unique database number for each find.

Materials

Translucent flint, honey-to-black in colour, predominates in the collection, with smaller amounts of grey, speckled flint. Wolds-type flint is also present in reasonable quantities in some parts of the parish, and in significant amounts in fields 1786 and 2388. The use of this type of flint is generally noted in the Early Mesolithic, when high-quality Wolds-type flint is commonly utilised, or in the Late Neolithic when coarser Wolds-type flint is often used for larger, more robust tools. Where present the cortex of the flint is generally worn and rolled, indicating a source derived from a river deposit. The humanly-modified flint is mostly of good quality, but appears to come from small nodules which are difficult to knap; cores are turned until exhausted to win every last usable flake. The size of the 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 both from the gravels of the Trent Valley and local drift deposits (Henson, 1989).

The collection includes fragments of polished flint axes made from grey/white Wolds-type flint. Although small pieces of this type of flint are found locally, the most probable source of flint large enough to produce these tools is to be found in the Lincolnshire or Yorkshire Wolds, implying trade or exchange either of raw material, or more probably of finished axes. A scraper of Bull Head flint from Eocene deposits in southern England suggests trade or exchange bringing flint or finished artefacts northwards.

There is just one tool made of black chert, a small end-scraper made on a thick flake. The form suggests a later prehistoric date, and it is most likely that it was made from a nodule obtained locally. A small flake of black chert from field 2093 is most probably struck from material found in the drift.

Lower Palaeolithic (pre-250,000 BP)

Field 9890 produced a flake (9221) identified by Dr Jacobi as Lower Palaeolithic. It is a large, thick flake, heavily rolled and patinated and is the only one that has been assigned confidently to the Lower Palaeolithic. One other flint, a rolled primary flake (32420), is thought to be Pleistocene from canon-shot gravel. If it is humanly modified it is also Lower Palaeolithic, but there is some doubt about it. A find from field 9375, a large, thick flake (33686) is stained, rolled and lightly corticated and is Palaeolithic, but otherwise unassignable.

Late Upper Palaeolithic (15,000-13,000 BP)

Some fields produced pieces that may point to activity in the Late Upper Palaeolithic. A large uncorticated core tablet from field 0179, and a heavily corticated core fragment from field 9092 were identified by Dr R M Jacobi as potentially of this period, although the latter has been reworked and therefore probably moved from its primary context. A find from field 9189 is the mesial portion of an anciently broken blade (33459). It is wind and water worn and, if it is an artefact, may not be in its primary context. A corticated piece from field 2597 (1912) is a thick, primary flake retouched to form an end scraper. It is heavily corticated, which suggests it could be early, but it is not a classic form and could date anywhere from Late Upper Palaeolithic to Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age.

Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic

Platform preparation by faceting and abrasion, and other characteristics of careful knapping most usually seen in earlier blade technologies, provide evidence of Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic activity. Measurements of length/breadth ratios of complete flakes and the application of the resulting profiles as suggested by Pitts (1978) and Pitts and Jacobi (1979) sometimes supported assignment to this age range.

Mesolithic (11,500-6000BP)

Only two finds are clearly Mesolithic. Field 1583 produced a microlith (16437), a partially backed bladelet likely to be Early Mesolithic, and in field 2295 a corticated blade fragment (1618) with a punctiform butt is also likely to be Mesolithic.
Elsewhere there are many possibly Mesolithic pieces within the category Mesolithic/Earlier Neolithic. In field 2383, for example, there are three unheated corticated pieces: a blade (25424), a re-used piece (25443) and a scraper (25462), all of which could be Mesolithic or earlier, although cortication could be caused by the chemistry of the soil. Another corticated blade (33756) from field 9278 could also be Mesolithic. A flake (27739) found in field 2093 and an end scraper (8266) from field 0484 are made of black chert. It is likely that both originated from material found locally in the drift deposits and are not dateable, but in north Nottinghamshire, particularly around Creswell Crags, black chert is seen as a marker of Mesolithic activity.

Earlier Neolithic (6000-5000BP)

In most parts of the area it is the overall character of an assemblage, rather than the identification of single dateable tools, that distinguishes its age as Earlier Neolithic.

Dateable single items are not common but a laurel leaf-shaped knife or weapon head (33602), and several fragments of leaf-shaped arrowheads (12583, 32346, 33588, 52731, 9318 and 46862 and16504), which are said by Green (1980) to be diagnostic of the Earlier Neolithic, were recovered. In field 2383 an Earlier Neolithic leaf-shaped arrowhead was made from a fragment of polished flint axe (25622). The arrowheads may be chance losses during hunting and do not necessarily give information about settlement. Other single pieces most likely to be Earlier Neolithic include a microdenticulate (9572).

There are many cores suggested as being from this period. One of them shows platform preparation with one platform established, but not fully developed and may be a cached item (these are items held ready for later usage). Others have been knapped to exhaustion. Many blades and bladelets are thought to be early (37795, 3737, 33772), but two blades with small, neatly prepared platforms that have been used along one or both margins (16717, 16394) are more certainly Earlier Neolithic. Points and knives (33657, 33785) have also been found.

There is also a disc scraper of good quality Wolds-type flint (27707) and in field 2383 three short end scrapers (25360, 25364 and 25474). Two notches (30085 and 30097) in one field, the latter apparently on a flake with platform preparation, are probably Earlier Neolithic or possibly earlier.

In many fields it is the whole assemblage that is diagnostic. In field 0179, for example, nearly the whole assemblage of 40 pieces conforms to the blade technology of the period. Crested blades, flakes and blade-like flakes with platform edge abrasion, cores with neatly prepared and faceted alternate platforms producing bladelets, simple short end scrapers on primary flakes (32370 and 32392) and a chunky end-and-side scraper (32380) made on a core rejuvenation flake are characteristic of the period. Field 2383 has a similar range of pieces indicating blade technology: flancs de nucleus (these are produced when reshaping a core that has become misshapen), core tablets, crested flakes, blades and fragments with small acute platforms, some of which have been utilised. In 9278 there are blades, bladelets, blade-like flakes, blade and bladelet cores, small flake cores, distally truncated tools, serrated blades, short end scrapers, a knife and a denticulate with inverse retouch, all very likely to be Earlier Neolithic. An assemblage in field 9375 contains core rejuvenation pieces such as flanc de nucleus and core tablets, cores, blades and bladelets, and a piercer made on a large, partially crested blade. A similar assemblage occurs in field 9676.

While most of these assemblages are most likely to be Earlier Neolithic the presence of some slightly earlier Mesolithic pieces among them cannot be discounted.

In the northern part of the parish, while many of the flints can be attributed no more closely than to the Mesolithic/ Earlier Neolithic, in field 1204 there are three that are most likely to be Earlier Neolithic. These are an opposed platform core 45535, producing bladelets and small flakes, and having an abraded platform edge, a core rejuvenation piece removing a damaged platform edge (45537) and a scraper (45539), neatly made on a thick flake and best described as a horseshoe scraper. The three pieces could belong together, perhaps suggesting a date for all three pieces in the Earlier Neolithic.

Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic (11,500-5000BP)

Many finds cannot be dated more closely than to the Mesolithic or Earlier Neolithic. In field 9703 two blade fragments (6005 and 6028), a crested blade (5942), one blade (6005) and a broken piece (6003) all show evidence of platform preparation putting them in the Mesolithic or Earlier Neolithic. Field 9809 revealed two cores, a small, nicely prepared bladelet core (3171) and a slightly larger blade core (3159) which has corticated lightly before its re-use as a core for small flakes. Both could be late Mesolithic or Earlier Neolithic as could 16414.

In field 1583 there are several blades and bladelets that could be Mesolithic or Earlier Neolithic. A single piece in field 1786, which has altogether 83 pieces, is a distal fragment of a nicely made blade with an abraded butt (809) and is either Late Mesolithic or Earlier Neolithic. Of a similar age are a crested blade (3) and a used bladelet (139) with an abraded butt in field 2388. Field 1184, adjacent to 1583 and 1183, which also have Late Mesolithic to Earlier Neolithic finds, produced three finds of this age. One of them (6279) is a nicely made blade, which is quite heavily corticated and which, despite plough damage, appears to have been used or retouched along one margin. The other two are uncorticated bladelets (6113 and 6507), the latter of which is crested and these could also be of this age group.

Field 1183 yielded several pieces that date from the Earlier Neolithic or earlier. A dihedral burin (16410) made on a blade from a large single platform core could be any date up to and including the Earlier Neolithic. Neatly developed single platform cores (1614, 16360 and 16389) which have scars from the production of regular bladelets are also early, as is a thick, patinated flake (16401) and a single platform core on a flake (16415).

In field 2093 a few pieces suggest a date in the Earlier Neolithic or earlier: 27707 is a neatly made disc scraper of good quality Wolds-type flint; bladelets have been removed from core 27740; blade 27721 has a small abraded platform; and blade fragment 27718 is neatly made.

The pieces recovered from many of the fields in the northern part of the parish indicate a general low level of activity in the Mesolithic/Earlier Neolithic. Platform preparation by faceting and edge abrasion, and other characteristics of careful knapping most usually seen in earlier blade technologies, is present in fields 0414, 0710, 1109, 1204,1308, 1505, 1695, 1803 and 2202, which are all marginal to the lake deposit, suggesting some activity in the Mesolithic/Earlier Neolithic. However, there is little to date the activity more precisely. Field 0414 provides the most interesting group of material of this date. These included a blade (43927) and blade-like flake (43933) with abraded butts, calcined blade fragment 43936, perhaps best interpreted as part of a long endscraper, side scraper 43934 made on a flake of dark flint with many inclusions, a large flake for this area, but not at odds with this earlier dating. Most pieces in this field are corticated to some degree, which often indicates greater age, and nothing from it would be out of place in the Mesolithic/Earlier Neolithic.

Neolithic (6000-4000BP)

Several pieces cannot be attributed specifically to the Earlier or Later Neolithic, but are undoubtedly Neolithic. Among these are the fragmentary polished stone axe heads (see later), and polished flint axe fragments.

Later Neolithic and Earlier Bronze Age (5000-3200BP)

Typically there is a high ratio of tools to debitage in this period, and extensive knapping using hard hammers to produce broad, short flakes from cores, often multidirectional, and with plain platforms. Many of the fields contain assemblages with these overall characteristics. There is also a tendency for improvisation and ad hoc usage of flint in this period.

While this technology continued from the Later Neolithic into the Bronze Age there are some assemblages, not distinguished here, that can be constrained to the Later Neolithic largely by the absence of anything definitely Bronze Age among them.
Tools identified as belonging to the Later Neolithic/Earlier Bronze Age include small scale-flaked scrapers, (8522 and 8539), elegant scale-flaked knife/scrapers (8342), end scrapers combined with a notch (8290), wedges for working bone and wood, edge-retouched knives (7564), denticulates (9013, 9235), knives etc made from heat-treated nodules, fabricators, chisel arrowheads (6852), elegant and chunky scrapers (16457), slim, tanged scrapers, notches on cores, piercers, plano-convex knives (43907), bifacial knives, polished flint knives (9549) and triangular arrowheads (37807). Blades are often irregular and, where present, the butts on flakes and blades are generally cortical or plain and removed using the hard hammer technique.

Earlier Bronze Age (4000-3200BP)

Some finds were most likely Bronze Age. Among them are thumbnail-sized scrapers (for example 9229, 9432, 12590), which are fairly common in some fields and a barbed and tanged arrowhead (8994).

Undated

Many pieces found could not be dated at all. In many cases they were isolated finds or very small assemblages with no distinctive character. These have been characterised as “prehistoric”. They include a large number of flakes and exhausted and multidirectional cores, but there are some tools. Examples of these are strike-a-lights (5191, 5762), wedges (4147), denticulates possibly used for wood working (4244), retouched blade-like flakes and retouched flakes, hammerstones (12587) including a calcined one (9379). Many of these are found in assemblages that could be characterised with date ranges Mesolithic to Bronze Age or Neolithic to Bronze Age.

Middle Bronze Age to Iron Age (3200- 2750BP)

Flint produced from activity in the Middle Bronze Age to Iron Age is likely to be present within this collection, but it is nowhere identifiable as the sole period represented. This is a time when flint tools were gradually replaced by metal, and when less care was taken with the knapping of flint. No new diagnostic flint tool types are known, and a restricted range of those seen in the Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age continues. The technology employed is often expedient and indistinguishable from less accomplished pieces of previous periods.


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