Is Mesolithic Lithic Analysis Paralysis Curable? | Keywords Typology : Morphology : Microlith : Flint

Dear Microburins,

Pssst. This microlith has a symbolic message for you. It isn’t an arrow armature. It’s a hafted, encrypted social mediation between that tuber, your hand and dinner with the in-laws in an hour. Get a move on!”

Scalene Triangle microlith (centre, damaged) with matching proximal (left) & distal microburinsSince setting up this blog in May 2012 I’ve noticed a significant number of “hits” from search-engine terms involving the minefield subject of lithic analysis and flint/chert artefact typologies. There’s also a broad readership from very many countries outside the UK—WordPress analytics are fantastic! For Mesolithic lithics, indeed all epochs, not only is there typological and descriptive variation across Europe, even for the benign Mesolithic “period”, but also within the British Isles.

“The term “analysis paralysis” refers to over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation, or citing sources, so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises. A person might be seeking the optimal or “perfect” solution upfront, and fear making any decision which could lead to erroneous results, when on the way to a better solution.” Wikipedia

This modest post offers some suggested reading and way-markers for any beginners and morphological malcontents. Together with an expert colleague, I can perhaps also offer advice and direction if you’re typologically tormented. With humility—this is also a lifelong learning process full of insecurities, doubt and questions that only a broad network of friends can help to navigate. More than that, typologies aren’t the be-all and end-all for sure. They’re our simplistic human, modern attempts to make sense of broken, discarded things and, yes, they may be inherently artificial and misleading. We like putting things into boxes and convenient packages to make sense of complexity on our own terms. However, it would be great to be at least consistently contrived—since more than 99% of the artefactual record is made from stone?

“Barbed point envy isn’t going to get us anywhere, even if you are biserial.”

Hazelnut and limpet parties | Did anything happen in the Mesolithic?

Excited limpetAnd by the way, when I said “benign”, earlier, I mean that outsiders often see the Mesolithic as a period of six millennia of egalitarian utopia during which little happened other than berry picking and the odd shot at a deer or boar or duck. That’s what I’d call “an ignominious period of human complacency and convenience”, if I didn’t know better—the Tesco exploitation model of supply, demand and undercutting.)  In reality, hard and dynamic questions remain around:

  • transitions from the Devensian late glacial and immediate post-glacial re-colonisers
  • sea incursion of the Doggerland land-mass and possible secondary colonisation around 9,000 BP
  • lakes to bogs, climatic variability, vegetational flux, changes to faunal mobility
  • subtle toolkit coexistence and evolution, variation in raw material procurement
  • territoriality and mobility of both humans and the hunted/encountered flora & fauna
  • manipulation of the environment, taskscapes, landscape mapping
  • perceptions of self-place-belonging-memory-ancestry-persistence-cosmology-progeny (noting that we find few dead people in the UK but quite a few things deposited in water)
  • incoming ideas, competition, in-bound and humanly/socially-precipitated pressures and tensions, varying degrees of sedentism, pacification & curation of resources

I also believe that north-east England is a boiling pot of potential where much of the evidence for these appositions, transformations, catalysts, reactions and strategies are evident in the archaeological record—still out in the field or entrapped in museum boxes and vast private collections, if one were only to look more carefully, critically and consistently—with the right interrogation frameworks. Does that scare you? Good. Me too.

One of the challenges in prehistoric, and most especially Mesolithic, lithic studies is that there is no coherent standard on how to approach and conduct analyses of our majority data set. References exist but are scattered through decades of literature, some obscure. Case studies are in every archaeological report (and noteworthy where they are not), and critiques thereof, but often only at summation and “interpreted results” levels—para-data. Seldom do you get the methodological practicalities, specific “glossary” definitions or metrical analysis protocols. Many historical publications and archaeological records are therefore rendered unusable without complete re-assessment—moreso in an archaeological period where assemblage variability between nodes of activity (and areas of apparent absence of activity) and through time are critical. Just how does one deal with assemblages of 30, 300, 3,000, 300,000 or more flints (or lithics), whether derived from coincidental or rescue “watching brief” excavation (“grey literature”), focused/targeted excavation, field-walking (for which there are varying tactics and inherent recovery biases) or from surface erosion areas where spatial patterning may still be preserved, but carelessly lost?

Mesolithic inter-site relationshipsWhat is best practice, what are the priorities and minimum acceptable expectations; e.g. when are complex micro-wear analyses and refitting exercises appropriate, or forgiven in their absence? How does one construct a “future-proof” replicable database that avoids or mitigates inevitable subjectivity? Whose typology or method is right—there are three or four just for microliths. Can anyone properly define a “rod” versus a “straight-backed-bladelet” that might have retouch on the leading edge—and why does it matter typologically, chronologically or for derivative interpretation and model-testing? Is a bladelet width less than 12mm, 10mm, 7mm or an average vanilla pod? Then think about raw materials (flint, chert, quartz, chalcedony, igneous, rhumstone etc.), as proxies for human mobility and exchange in the chaîne opératiore, that need better descriptions than “grey speckled flint” or “dull brown chert”. Did colour and “quality” matter back then too?

“One man’s rod is another man’s backed? One needs experienced friends, for sure.”

The Joy of FlintNew to British flint typologies?

If you need an overview of British prehistoric flint technology and typologies, Chris Butler’s Prehistoric Flintwork (Tempus 2005, affordable and widely available) is an excellent one-stop reference. The Mesolithic section is especially useful with a summary of microlith and major tool form typolologies. The rendition of Roger Jacobi’s microlith typology is covered on pages 94-6 and there’s a good summary of Early Mesolithic and Late Mesolithic chronological patterns—including the “Star Carr” and “Deepcar” types. Clive Waddington’s The Joy of Flint (2004) offers a nicely illustrated period-by-period review of British flint utilisation, with specific reference to the collections of The Great North Museum, Newcastle. Both these books have excellent further reading recommendations. I don’t think it’s one of the other “Joy Of” series, but comes recommended nonetheless.

Innocent knapperTo drill down any further you really have to start wandering through large (and expensive) excavation volumes where unfortunately few precise typological definitions are available or illustrated comprehensively. One rare exception is C.R. Wickham-Jones’ volume on excavations at Rhum (Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Monograph Series No 7 1990, Edinburgh). The South Hebrides Mesolithic Project typologies (S. Mithen et al Hunter-gatherer landscape archaeology 2 vols¹) are probably a bit of a minefield although there are useful discussions². For clear and precise descriptive terminology for lithics, the Inizen volume (see below) is invaluable, as is W. Andrefsky’s Lithics volume if used with caution. See the end of this post for some of the more specialist references.

¹ See also Finlayson, B. et al Mesolithic ‘Chipped Stone Assemblages: Descriptive and Analytical Procedures Used by the Southern Hebrides Mesolithic Project’, in Pollard, T. & Morrison, A. The Early Prehistory of Scotland (pp 252-266). Edinburgh: University Press.

² However, consider this critical review: Saville, A., 2002. Mesolithic: a Hebridean ‘trend setter’, Antiquity 26: 291, pp 258-261.

Talk to a Doctor | Professional Guidance

Dr Paul R Preston (D.Phil Oxon) will be publishing his doctoral thesis in the next few months (based on Mesolithic assemblages and landscape studies in the Central Pennines of northern England). It will include a standardised typological framework, glossary, a guide to metrical data capture as well as flint and chert raw material classifications. This will be the most current, comprehensive synthesis and summation of legacy typologies and is intended to provide a replicable baseline system for Mesolithic researchers. In the meantime, if any readers struggling with lithic analysis would like Paul’s advice, please get in touch with me in this blog or through my contact details.

Handbook of British ArchaeologyBe not afraid of the Knapper

If you’re completely new to British prehistory—and that’s okay—then a good starting point is Adkins, R. & Adkins, L. 2008. The Handbook of British Archaeology. London: Constable³. It’s affordable, available on Amazon and has lots of follow-up references. For a digestible European perspective, try Bailey, G. & Spikins, P. 2009. Mesolithic Europe. Cambridge: University Press.

³ There are a couple of accidental editorial errors with some of the Mesolithic dates: p28 Preboreal Mesolithic Phase is 11,600-10,000 BP (Before Present, calibrated); p31 Later Mesolithic Phase is 9,450-6,000 BP; p32 Terminal Mesolithic Phase is 8,000-6,000 BP.

Before I leave you for treatment

My pet hate expressions:

  • Material culture (and archaeological “cultures”)
  • Techno-complex
  • Industry (and manufacturing)
  • Typology (ironically)
  • Inanimate things and concepts “negotiating” or “mediating” with each other (subliminal obfuscation between stones and hard places)

Spence

Appendicitis | More specialist reads

  • Early Mesolithic (Southern Britain focus) | Dr M Reyniers protocols for his Early Mesolithic doctoral thesis published as Reynier, M. J., 2005. Early Mesolithic Britain: origins, development and directions. BAR 393. Oxford: Archeopress.
  • Definitions and terminology | Inizan, M. L., Renduron‐Ballinger, M., Roche, H., & Tixier, J., 1999. Technology and Terminology of Knapped Stone. Préhistoire de la Pierre Taillée, Cercle de Recherché et études Préhistorique avec le concours
    du Centre National del la Recherché Scientifique, France, Nanterre. Andrefsky, W., 2005. Lithics: Macroscopic Approaches to Analysis. Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology. Cambridge: University Press.
  • Microliths | Eerkens, J., 1998. Reliable and Maintainable Technologies: Artefact Standardisation and the Early to Later Mesolithic Transition in Northern England, Lithics Technology: 23, 42‐53. | Saville, A., 1981. Mesolithic Industries in Central England: an exploratory investigation using microlith typology, Archaeol. J: 138, 49-71.
  • Illustration | Martingell, H. & Saville, A., 1988 (reprinted 1996). The Illustration of Lithic Artefacts: A Guide to Drawing Stone Tools for Specialist Reports. Lithic Studies Society Occasional Paper No 3.

Summer reflections | Semaphore archaeology | Mesolithic hazelnut season

SummerMicroburin looks back at summer 2012 fieldwork and forward to autumn activities. The excavation work near Whitby didn’t happen due to the late harvest and other complications—but field-walking, disciplinarian B&B landladies, Mesolithic pollen coring with professional palynologically qualified palaeo-ecologistical botanists, and more Early Mesolithic discoveries in museum boxes—all did. Oh, and some sublime fish & chips from a man who has worked in the chippy since I was a kid in shorts. That’s an awfully long time and an awful lot of battered cod ago, and remains a top-secret location.

When summer’s end is nighing
And skies at evening cloud,
I muse on change and fortune
And all the feats I vowed
When I was young and proud.

From hill and cloud and heaven
The hues of evening died;
Night welled through lane and hollow
And hushed the countryside,
But I had youth and pride.

So here’s an end of roaming
On eves when autumn nighs:
The ear too fondly listens
For summer’s parting sighs,
And then the heart replies.

Selected verses from When summer’s end is nighing by AE Housman

Summer journal | Wettest on record | In no particular order

Themes to inspire:

  • Hand of PeatHow to get a partridge from field to oven – via the sky
  • Edicts from the Lord – of the manor
  • Archaeology by semaphore – with flags
  • Pollen in chocolate cake peat – with flint trimmings
  • Pushing Teesside’s heritage back to the eighth or ninth millennium BP – in-a-box
  • Troublesome students, mapping by sextant, very good morale – with a hint of paranoia
  • Carb calendar date – September 20th is the ripening kickoff for hazelnuts, a favourite focal for foraging Mesolithic folk

Field-walking with Total stations | Semaphore finds

HazelnutsWhile the London Olympics—and the superb Paralympics that followed—remained largely rain-free for the duration, looked upon favourably by a meandering jet stream, the rest of Blighty (Great Britain) was less fortunate. It was indeed a wet summer. Mum had the heating on int’t North and cars became submersibles on several occasions. Andy Murray’s Wimbledon tears only added to an overall sense of moisture. BrambleSo it was a very late harvest. The viability of the proposed geophys surveying and trial excavations—the third phase of the North-East Yorkshire Mesolithic Project—hung on both the harvest timetable and the impending shooting season, not for grouse here, but a veritable car-boot-sale swarm of partridges all hiding under-cover in a portion of the field especially planted with artichokes.

Be thankful you’re not a partridge

PartridgeThe point about partridges—a Microburin favourite needing a very hot oven—is that they somehow have to get from the artichokes into the sky and then down again into the hot oven. The received wisdom is that this is best achieved by hosting a party of rather wealthy people, of the blue-blooded and merchant banking kind (or Lord Mandelson), armed with shot guns, pointing in the right direction (upwards), and somebody running with flails through the artichokes—over a good six month season. Any self-respecting partridge, you would think, would have the common sense not to sit around for that long. And so there cameth an Edict from the Lord. The chap at the very big house understandably didn’t want an anorak of archaeologists (and likely tree-huggers and sock knitters) messing about in his artichokes. Nor do I think a vortex of heritage-hungry volunteers would want to be in the sights of so many double-barrels, if you’ll forgive the pun? So, birds, lordships, artichokes, rain and the late harvest all conspired.

Surveying flagsHowever, all was not entirely lost. Between combine harvesters and bales, a window of a few days allowed the tribe—from Tees Archaeology plus a baking tray of volunteers—to field-walk looking mainly for flints although a few bits of jet were found too. Despite malevolent downpours on day 2, the mission was rather successful. On top of prior geophys results, clear distribution clusters were evident with good indications for Mesolithic activity as well as Neolithic to Bronze Age.

Semaphore_positions

Flag waving | Naval semaphore

Each find was placed in a ziplock bag, marked with a flag, and then surveyed in using a frighteningly expensive prismatic GPS total station—if you were married to one, you wouldn’t let him or her out on their own.

The partridges snoozed oblivious to über-quiet walky-talky coordinate gathering and a bit of flag waving. The hope is to reconvene in the spring to complete the project, corpses allowing and kind lordships permitting.

Waterlogged siteChocolate peat | Pollen nougat | Flint chippings

Dear microburins, if you recall earlier posts, the intention was to drag two doctoral experts up onto the high moors at Westerdale, to extract some pollen core columns from a Late Mesolithic site with flints seemingly situated in the peat. This is a very rare, if not unparalleled situation. Most Mesolithic flint lay at the interface between the peat and underlying sandy mineral soil and so is not associated with the peat—which began to form in the very Late Mesolithic and early Neolithic as the climate became wetter.

NYM_Westerdale

Mesolithic activity | Westerdale

The microscopic pollen preserved in peat acts as a proxy indicator that allows the prehistoric environment to be reconstructed and disturbance events, such as burning and clearances, whether man-made or otherwise, to be identified. With luck, pollen sequences can also be dated. Having flint artefacts in the peat starts to provide a direct correlation between human activity and the local paleo-environment.

Lion Inn

Lion Inn, Blakey | April 2012

All this was supposed to happen back in April 2012. The week before was so warm and sunny that T-shirts were the order of the day. It was truly like summer, even above 400m altitude. And then the storm. Powerlines and broadband were blown away. It snowed. And it snowed. The drifts at the infamous Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge were over ten feet deep. And the beer ran out.

Perseverance wins

Jeff-and-Jim

Jeff (left) and Jim

As luck would have it, it has been possible to amass a column of palynologists—well two of them—a car full of shovels, tins, guttering, ranging poles, tin foil, cling film and a trowel or two. The fantastic local game-keeper arranged for gates to be opened, and off we drove around the head of Farndale on the old ironstone railway trackbed. It’s an awesome drive, dodging walkers, sheep, grouse, but not partridges.

ECW06_Flint

Flint in peat!

Doctors Jim Innes from Durham and Jeff Blackford of Manchester, proved great company. Mum arranged with “certain powers” to have the torrential rain turned off at 11am on the last day of August and, after building dams and removing sticky gloop, flints-in-peat is exactly what we found. We managed to remove four pollen columns with flints embedded in each. Over the coming several months, these will be cleaned, analysed and assessed for AMS dating potential. A sample taken in 2009 about 10m further up-slope dated the base of the peat to the Late Mesolithic (Innes, pers comm).

ECW06

Water in 3m² trench!

I returned to the site the a few days later to re-clean about 3 square metres of the section and explore a timber fragment protruding from the peat with some vertical birch stems sitting to the side. Over the entire day, thankfully a dry one, the area was cleaned up, planned and photographed. The vertical “stakes” proved to have nice little root systems and so, with the clay laying around, seem to have been growing in a damp hollow—one could see the tiny sections of reeds as black flecks in the clay.

ECW06-2

Yellow markers for the flints underneath the timber.

The timber remains somewhat elusive (and is now protected and back-filled). It could be a root, a fallen trunk, but retains an odd profile and rather bulbous right (exposed) terminus, although exposure and erosion (this is a footpath) could account for this. It lay in the peat too and had a layer of flints, mostly debitage but potentially one microlith, directly beneath it. These join about 100 flints previously recovered and are in the process of being catalogued as part of the White Gill and Esklets project. So far, the microliths are only straight backed bladelets (not rods) and the debitage overall is homogenous, with several refits, suggesting little large scale movement of flints since deposition although the site is located on a gentle slope. I’m writing up* the coring and excavation exercise for HER and ADS archives and ready for the palaeo-environmental analysis results as and when those become available.

Caution

Gated Road

After this exercise, in mid-life, none of my body parts would function for a week, and I developed a very big and painful spot on my nose (named Jehovah). Back-filling is a moral duty that exacts a heavy price on the physical being. The following day, in lovely sunshine, I was met by a local farmer—sheepdog attached to the back of his trike—who shared his flints, spoke in rich “Nordic” Yorkshire dialect, and whose sheepdog, named Ben, shook paws with me. Treasured moments. We talked to several local picnicers about ancient people, long-gone forests and beasts of the woods. I don’t think anybody would want to upset a bos longifrons?

* Same format as a commercial “grey literature” watching brief / excavation record, hopefully uploaded into the OASIS project repository managed by the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) based in York. North York Moors National Park Authority pre-approved the work (core extraction and section recording) and permission was gratefully received from the Farndale Estate who provided access.

Teesside is older than you think | It is now | Mapping by sextant

Mesolithic Tees Basin

Mesolithic activity in the Tees Basin | North-East England

My earlier post in June offered the first inklings of a suspicion that Teesside—the strangest and not always comfortable blend of industry, sea-faring and natural beauty—might have the first evidence for Mesolithic occupation in the earlier phases after the melting of glaciers over 12,000 years ago. Ironically this harks back to my undergraduate dissertation on the Mesolithic in the Tees Basin, unpublished in 1987 at the University of Durham. Early Mesolithic activity is scant in north-east Yorkshire, excepting the world-renowned Star Carr and Vale of Pickering landscape. Much else undoubtedly sits, moistly, under the North Sea. There are probably under a baker’s dozen assemblages (excepting a few isolated finds of diagnostic tools–mostly microliths*), none fully documented or published, including:

  • Pointed Stone | three sites in the Taylor private collection only summarised by Roger Jacobi in his 1978 article “Northern England in the eighth millennium bc: an essay” in The Early Postglacial Settlement of Northern Europe by Mellars, P. (ed.) published by Duckworth (Star Carr type microliths)
  • Money Howe (Star Carr type microliths)
  • Scugdale area (Deepcar type microliths)
  • Danby Beacon (Deepcar type microliths)
  • Highcliff Nab, Guisborough (Deepcar type microliths, the closest to the Eston Hills)

* If you’re new to British prehistory and flint technology, I’d highly recommend Chris Butler’s Prehistoric Flintwork (Tempus 2005, affordable and widely available) is an excellent one-stop reference. The Mesolithic section is especially useful with a summary of microlith and major tool form typolologies. The rendition of Roger Jacobi’s microlith typology is covered on pages 94-6 and there’s a good summary of Early Mesolithic and Late Mesolithic chronological patterns—including the “Star Carr” and “Deepcar” types.

Roseberry Topping

Roseberry Topping | April 2012

What we can do now is add, with increasing confidence, the northern-most activity area that is immediately south of the Tees basin, on the Eston Hills c. 200m altitude that quite dramatically overlook the Tees Estuary and south Durham coast—perhaps offshore wetlands and forests in the Mesolithic, for which there is published evidence. On clear days you can see as far as the Pennines to the west, and southwards towards Highcliff and the North York Moors escarpment. Roseberry Topping would, as it does today—albeit after historical landslips that precipitated a fine Bronze Age hoard (in Sheffield Museum)—appear prominently in a Mesolithic vista even given heavy deciduous forestation at the time. I guess that’s why it appeared in a recent branded wholesome bread advert on TV last year?

CPE82_1

CPE82 | Author’s 1982 finds

Our postulation, in summary, was that a particular assemblage recovered by your dearest Microburin writer in 1982 (site CPE82), contained an Early Mesolithic “Deepcar” type microlith of broad blade form. This is in addition to blades (and virtually no debitage—most stuff seems to show utilisation and edge wear) whose characteristics are not only different to the general Later Mesolithic assemblages but had much more in common with other early finds in north-east England and the Pennines, if not farther north —Clive Waddington’s landscape work in the Millfield basin and the Borders. Colleagues have, meantime, confirmed the microlith typology, and more is to come. Excited? Do please read on.

A lone and gentle mapper | a sensitive man with a sextant

CPE82_DuffyMap

H. Duffy’s map of Eston Hills | Site CPE82 shown as “Sandy Knoll”

A central aspect and enjoyment in any archaeological exercise is researching the activities of our immediate antecedents—the people who have walked the hills and recovered artefacts, here flints, no matter what their interest point. Much of our archaeological record and museum collections bear homage to the wanderings of curious people (by nature and outlook) within the wild landscapes they enjoyed. Historiography—recording these earlier adventures—is as interesting as making sense of what they discovered. From 18th and 19th Century antiquarians who dug barrows for treasure and sought proof of evolution by way of pejorative views on human and cultural development (small flints were made by small pygmy people), to the ladies and gentlemen who have enjoyed their hills and valleys up to the present, all of these explorers have picked up things that have seemed odd. Some recorded their find spots, some still do extremely well. Others leave vague records, but ones that can still build up a storyboard of human presence and activities over millennia. We cannot undo the foibles of our friends in the historical past, only make the best of what they have bequeathed to us.

CPE82_4

Duffy’s Late Mesolithic flints | Compare with the CPE82 Early assemblage

Enter Mr. H. Duffy from Redcar of which nothing is known except a box of flints, a map made with a sextant, two diaries and a photograph, all in the Kirkleatham Old Hall Museum*. He seems to be an eccentric gentleman who very much preferred his own company—he notes “troublesome student types” with binoculars (one being of non-caucasian complexion), a vicar, a birdwatcher, nuisance security guards at the ICI Wilton Castle headquarters. His map was completely home-made over probably a decade from the mid-late 1970s to 1984. He also, partly endearingly and partly frustratingly, made up names. He gave street names to footpaths, called the burnt area where most flints came from “The Paddock” and invented “Stonegate Farm” which doesn’t exist as a farm—it’s two stone gateposts (stonegate) and a ploughed field (farm). But Microburin knows the place and gate posts very well. “Rosebay Heap” is where he built a small cairn as his central “datum” point. It was constantly “vandalised” by the wandering youths, poor chap.

CPE82_2

CPE82 | Duffy’s microliths and microburin

This was also a time, remembered by Microburin himself, when some devastating fires removed huge areas of vegetation and peat. From the sandy mineral soil he picked up flint artefacts, but unfortunately didn’t plot all the find spots. Nevertheless, his collection provides evidence for prehistoric activity from the Early and Late Mesolithic to the Bronze Age. He also picked up shrapnel and bits of discarded clothing—anything out of the ordinary. He records his moods too, varying from “Felt much better after MGN [unknown: mighty good nap?] and a rest” (Tue 5 July 1983) to “Morale very low… old paranoia again” (Sat 27 Aug 1983). It also took extremely bad weather to put him off.

* I’m extremely grateful to Peter and the gang at Tees Archaeology for allowing me to look at the Duffy archive, make records and take photographs. Peter also kindly provided a scan of the Duffy map.

Early Mesolithic match

CPE82_3

CPE82 | Compare Duffy’s flints (top) with the author’s (bottom) | Good match?

In addition to a fine array of Late Mesolithic “narrow blade” microliths—bladelet cores, blades and debitage too—a series of lovely Neolithic leaf-shaped arrowheads plus a very fine, large ripple-flaked oblique arrow, an extremely beautiful and large Bronze Age barbed-and-tanged arrowhead, and wide selection of scrapers, retouched tools and the like (perhaps for a later post)—one particular group of flints stand out. Whilst he didn’t record the exact location, there’s another broad-blade microlith (or two), this time a slightly irregular rhomboidal obliquely truncated blade, with backing retouch on both margins. Again, it has close parallels in Deepcar type* assemblages. This is accompanied by blades and flakes, many with utilisation wear, and microburins virtually identical to my CPE82 assemblage. The raw material, largely white “Wolds” flint and some patinated Drift flint, is all identical to CPE82.

* A quick scan of the literature shows similar examples at Warcock Hill North (Pennines), Oakhanger VII and Wawcott III amongst others.

Mr H Duffy

Mr H Duffy | Nothing else is known about him

As the evidence grows, I don’t think the Early Mesolithic folks were here at Carr Pond very long, at least in this place. It doesn’t so far seem to be a “persistent place” as we have in the high uplands, and as we may have in the Later Mesolithic on Eston Hills and Upleatham. It does not seem to be a spot of primary flint knapping either. There’s little debitage, a majority of used blades and flakes. But there’s enough evidence by way of three or four microburins that they’re perhaps repairing toolkits using blank blades or prepared-and-tested pebbles—you don’t want to be carrying around heavy cobbles of dubious quality, not through forests and scrub.

More to come? | Don Spratt Collection

Don Spratt

Donald Spratt | Original from the Northern Echo

Don Spratt (1922-1992) was an enthusiastic “amateur” archaeologist who spent his retirement years working in Cleveland and the North York Moors with the likes of Raymond Hayes. His most visible achievement, the Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North-East Yorkshire, remains a central resource for anybody studying the north-east of England. With friends he recovered and published the Upleatham Mesolithic assemblages and his excavations over many years at Roxby Iron Age settlement, published in PPS, won a major award. A good deal of his Cleveland finds are in the Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough and include artefacts recovered by field-walking on the Eston Hills.

Microburin is heading to the museum next week to follow-up on previous observations that some broken broad blade microliths are present in his collection. The ploughed fields at Barnaby are very close to CPE82. It’s going to be very interesting to see if this adds to the unfolding story of early post-glacial Teesside.

Summer epilogue | “Love” on the beach | Flamborough Head flint

Flamborough

Flamborough Head | Beach messages

The final ritual act of this summer was a visit to Flamborough Head, East Riding of Yorkshire, to scramble around the coves, cliffs and boulder clay in search of reference sample flint pebbles. There’s no problem finding them in the same way there were no problems for our Mesolithic friends. What Microburin found is identical to much of the material from the high moors, but missing some of the brighter coloured material—the reds, oranges, deep browns, pinks and finer translucent flints thought to occur more on the Durham coast. The layer of opaque cream-white flint in the chalk is very similar to the CPE82 assemblage. Interestingly, only very small pieces of stained flint occurred in the glacial till, and some of the larger cobbles that would be considered drift flint look like they’re in a primary deposit or derived from offshore chalk beds in the immediate vicinity. I’m sure there’ll be more on raw material sources in 2013.

CPE82_5Epi-lithic-logue

Let me leave you with a final picture of more later prehistoric artefacts in the Duffy collection.

Spence