UK Mesolithic Sites and Finds | Footprints at Formby Lancashire

 

Formby

Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership

Formby, Sefton, Lancashire | Intertidal peat beds with 58 human footprints and over 2,000 Red Deer prints in a 90m long bed, with trails of Aurochs, Crane and Wild Boar being recorded by Manchester University | Images on Facebook post | Daily Mirror 19-Jun-2016

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New Mesolithic Video | Imagined realities by Don Henson

New Mesolithic video by Don Henson, University of York, presented at TAG Bradford in December 2015


Henson_TAG2015Imagined realities in the portrayal and investigation of the British Mesolithic | Don Henson at TAG Braford Dec-2015 | 15-May-2016 Youtube (20min) Academic

“Fiction can be a powerful way of imagining the past. Examining how the Mesolithic has been communicated is part of my PhD research into public perceptions of the Mesolithic. The starting point for this paper is the words of novelist Margaret Elphinstone: ‘In the blank spaces between the words of archaeological narrative lie the buried kernels of all the forgotten stories‘. This paper will explore the dissonance between academic portrayals of the Mesolithic and portrayals of the period in fictional novels and short stories. I will look at the range of narrative elements presented: characters in settings carrying out actions which may be affected by external happenings.

Whereas archaeology of the Mesolithic is good at conveying settings and happenings, I will argue that it is to fiction that we must turn for an exploration of characters and actions. This in turn should deliver a better appreciation of what we should be seeking to recover through our research. We need to move beyond seeing Mesolithic people as hunter-gatherers and towards a more rounded view of them as people, and to think how we might recover aspects of life higher up Hawkes’s ladder of inference than the purely technological and economic.”

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Teaching Mesolithic | Resources for Schools

StarCarrRecon◊ Dear Microburins,

Archaeologist Don Henson at the University of York has been developing a suite of resources for teachers about Star Carr and the Mesolithic period. Here’s Don’s summary of what’s available to use—and he’s seeking feedback on the materials too.

The classroom activities have been grouped into three sets of units. Individual units can be taken from any set and taught as stand-alone activities. We are looking for teachers who would like to test these resources in the classroom and let us know what they think of them. Please contact mail@starcarr.com.

Set 1 | A skills log to develop basic archaeological skills in the classroom: finding out information, identifying things, recording objects, analysing how people lived and telling others about Star Carr.

Set 2 | A set of short stories, “11,000 Years Ago”, about the daily lives of a Mesolithic family: moving home, making things, food, friends and strangers, a hint of winter, coming of age, a new life, the bad old days, boy or girl – animals or plants?

Set 3 | Lessons from the Middle Stone Age, showing how the Mesolithic can teach useful lessons to help us both live better lives today and understand the world we live in: the origins of ourselves, change is inevitable, the living environment, human diversity, healthy eating, what makes us happy.

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Mesolithic Salvage | What the flint collector left behind

◊ Dear Microburins,


Update | I have added a Reporting Finds page to this blogsite. The guidance has been adopted by the Prehistoric Society on their Facebook page as a new rule of engagement.


After last week’s post about a walkover survey of a Mesolithic landscape in Yorkshire, something I do annually with permissions—and about the persisting evidence of unrecorded flint collecting¹—I’m glad to say that just enough has been left behind since 2013-14² to be able to tell some kind of story. Stones tell stories—but context is key!

The image here is rather rough-and-ready but shows, after gentle cleaning, 62 flints from the different disturbance locations, ahead of detailed analysis, cataloguing, HER submission, and archiving in a local museum. Very detailed grid references (GPS) have also been recorded. This is clearly a very small collection, but sits within a much larger archive, in the context of recent recording and volunteer regimes as part of a Historic England project, and the ongoing random activities of some participant(s) for their own various motives or habits.

Highlights

Some highlights amongst the sixty-two include:

  • Four very small cores which have been reduced with difficulty due to flaws (blue);
  • At least two microliths: a tiny and damaged microscalene triangle top R, and a possible krukowski (broken) backed bladelet, bottom L (red);
  • A burin/scraper (rare) top L, and a retouched bladelet top C (red);
  • A few other pieces show possible use-wear;
  • Burnt debitage indicating likely hearths.

However, we don’t know what the collector(s) have removed, including any possible Early Mesolithic artefacts—which are extremely uncommon in this area and are usually broad-blade microliths (projectiles)—or indeed early Neolithic artefacts such as leaf-shaped arrowheads, attractive to collectors. We’re in an area where the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition (the overlap) hints at being potentially later than other northern locations.

Glaisdale_EMThe image above was found on the Internet some years ago, posted under a pseudonym, and shows a collector’s Early Mesolithic microliths from Glaisdale. There were also images of microscalene triangles and backed bladelet forms. The area was frequently visited by collectors throughout the 20th century until recent work by Natural England to re-vegetate and re-wet an extensively eroded moorland area.

Risks

The saddest news is that many 20th century collections, and very extensive collections amounting to tens-of-thousands of finds (if not more), ultimately ended up in land fills after the collectors’ deaths. Some ended up in museums, but mixed-up and not well documented, often the result ‘of a weekend walk’ over many years. There are a number of extensive private collections today, some known, many suspected, that may end up with a similar destiny—I know of at least four, filling garage-sized spaces that would take a generation to process. Even with recent developments in best-practice recording advice (PAS, HER, MoRPHE, CIfA and otherwise) by virtue of standards frameworks, an incredible amount of data—research data—remains out of reach, off-record and hence at risk.

The Narrative So Far

  • This is a Mesolithic landscape, or ‘taskscape’, a palimpsest, a persistent place returned to repeatedly for thousands of years.
  • The lithic technology and a few diagnostic tools confirm a Late Mesolithic ‘narrow-blade’ date with activity extending a considerable distance, over 150m or more, across the moorland—dense deciduous woodland with clearances in the later Mesolithic climatic optimum—below a spring line, and farther downslope than previously recorded.TVA_LateMes
  • My own recent radiocarbon age determinations (thirteen in all, from well-defined features) suggest discreet hearth-based knapping and tool manufacture/repair can span considerable date ranges even within a few metres of each other. The calibrated dates from a rescue excavation show activity around 5300-4800 cal BC (with possible re-use of a stone-ringed hearth together with a possible structure and ‘flat stone’ features) and perhaps even 3800-3770 cal BC (at least a discreet corylus burning event), and c.4300 cal BC elsewhere—these will all be published in due course. Our understanding of the palaeo-environmental prehistory of this area is much better researched and documented than the archaeology: see References in the previous post.
  • There are also some suggestions, overall, for varying raw material procurement sources (over considerable distances), reduction stages and activities at different times and locations, although previous removals on a vast scale into the tens of thousands, when the area was much more eroded, will have compromised at least some of the surviving archaeological record.
  • When legacy references and HER records talk to ‘an assemblage composed only of debitage’, one must wonder if that is true or a function of selective flint collecting along with other taphonomic (post-depositional) processes. Our record will always be a sample of a sample of a sample.

I’ll post more, with images, when the analysis and cataloguing is complete.

Spence


¹ Evidence comprises regular sightings by the gamekeepers and farmers of at least one collector, the same gentleman each time (he used to quote my name as a legitimiser), known to leave small piles of debitage (taking the tools) and characteristic footprint patterns in all the eroding or disturbed areas where lithics are revealed. Some of his finds have been summarily recorded in the past but lack specific provenances in many cases.
² When the shooting butts and tracks were constructed.

The Mesolithic Bogs are Drying | StoneAgeBogs Group Website

Mesolithic archaeology surviving in wetlands (bogs) is an increasingly rare resource, as evidenced in the rapidly deteriorating—drying and acidifying—remains at Star Carr since the original excavations in the 1940-50s.

StarCarr_trenchcomparison

Star Carr, North Yorkshire | Image comparison between 1950 and 2010 showing shrinkage of the peat due to land drainage. Source: StoneAgeBogs website.

The StoneAgeBogs group has been established

“with the intention of bringing together specialists who work on bog sites across Europe to discuss cutting-edge scientific methodologies and to evaluate the threats to this valuable cultural resource with a view to future action and collaboration.”

The website includes useful illustrated summaries and references for the most important sites across northern Europe and western Russia:

More UK sites and finds in the media »
Mesolithic Miscellany website »

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Mesolithic Videos | Cramond, Edinburgh in the Mesolithic: 5min video

Cramond◊ Cramond in the Mesolithic era | Open Virtual Worlds in association with the Cramond Association and Cramond Heritage Trust | 11-Apr-2016 (Oct-2015 Vimeo) 5min

Val Dean talks about Cramond (near Edinburgh) in the Mesolithic era (c.10,000 – 4500 BC), exploring what life was like for the population at this time; what people ate, how they lived, the tools they used and what traces remain for archaeologists to explore.

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