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Appendix 1: Lithics

Barry Bishop

June 2017

Historic England's excavations at long barrow Winterbourne Stoke 71 (WS71) resulted in the recovery of 143 pieces of struck flint and a single piece of unworked burnt flint cobble (Table 3).

Table 3: Quantification of struck flint and unworked burnt flint from Historic England excavations at WS71
Context Feature Fill Flake Blade Chips <15mm Flake fragment Flake fragments/shatter <15mm Conchoidal chunks Denticulated blade Burnt stone (no.) Burnt stone (wt:g)
92302 D92307 3 9 6 12 10 1 1 1 144
92304 D92307 2 40 7 29 9 6 1
92305 D92307 1 3 2 1 2 1
92306 D92303 2 1
92310 D92303 2 1
92309 D92303 1 1
Total53 13 44 2 21 8 2 1 144

The primary ditch provided only three pieces; a small fragment of a thin, well-struck flake from its primary fill along with a narrow flake and a small trimming flake from its secondary fill. The narrow flake has possible light retouch or utilisation damage along its left lateral margin. Although none of the pieces is closely dateable, technologically they would be most typical of Neolithic industries.

The three fills of the recut ditch contained the remaining 140 struck flints, which were present throughout its profile but concentrated in its middle fill (92304). The assemblage's basic integrity is demonstrated by the identification of at least two sequentially refitting groups, both from the middle fill, and although no refits could be made between pieces from different fills, similarities in the raw materials suggests they are all closely related. As the material was distributed throughout the three fills, it is perhaps most likely that the assemblage was produced adjacent to the ditch or on a bank, and had eroded into the ditch as it infilled.

The pieces are in a good and frequently sharp condition although heavy recortication has weakened the edges of some. Recortication has obscured the material characteristics of most pieces but those with recent breaks are made from a good knapping quality, mottled grey flint and many retain a thick and only slightly weathered chalky cortex. The raw materials, which may have consisted of only a single or small number of fresh chalk flint nodules, most probably came from exposed outcropping seams on the local chalk or possibly even as spoil from the excavation of the ditches.

The assemblage from the recut is technologically homogeneous and, although there are no diagnostic pieces present, is typical of Later Neolithic technologies. It includes elements representing the entire reduction sequence, from the decortication of raw materials to the discard of used tools, although it represents only a small proportion of the material that would have been originally generated. It is likely that much more of the assemblage remains in the unexcavated parts of the ditch and, consequently, it remains uncertain whether the complete assemblage would represent an isolated episode of flint use at the site, or if other serviceable pieces were produced that were taken away for use elsewhere.

Almost half of the assemblage comprises small flakes and flake fragments that measure less than 15mm in maximum diameter, again indicating that the knapping occurred in situ or had seen little disturbance. The assemblage includes three primary flakes with the majority of the others also retaining some cortex. The flakes show a wide range of shapes and sizes; the largest pieces measure nearly 100mm in length but most are considerably smaller, and there is a marked tendency towards narrow pieces. Around a quarter are of blade dimensions although none of these is prismatic and there are few indications of systematic blade-based production. Knapping was nevertheless skilful, with a high proportion of the flakes having been generated during core trimming and adjustment, which demonstrate a concern for the careful preparation and maintenance of cores. Unfortunately no cores are present but most flakes have multi-direction dorsal scars indicating the use of multi-platformed cores. Most of the flakes also have neatly trimmed platform edges and a few have facetted platforms, the latter possibly coming from Levallois-like cores. A few flakes have possible utilisation damage consistent with cutting or scraping type activities and there are two retouched implements present. These are very similar and comprise large and sturdy denticulated blades, the example from the upper fill measuring 90mm in length and that from the middle fill 78mm, with both being 38mm wide and 13mm thick. The former has inverse retouch along its right margin that has partially broken off; the latter has fine retouch along its right lateral margin that forms a series of small shallow denticulations. The edges of both show some wear, possibly caused from cutting or sawing type activities, although this is mostly obscured by recortication.

The upper fill of the recut also contained a large, unworked but heavily burnt flint cobble weighing 144g, indicating burning in the vicinity.

Discussion

The assemblage from the original long barrow ditch is small and while it can be at least loosely dated to the Neolithic, it could be residually deposited and is not necessarily directly associated with the construction or initial use of the monument. The assemblage from the recut, however, is more significant and indicates knapping having occurred close by, probably not long after it had been opened.

This assemblage is made from nodules of fresh chalk flint and it is possible that these were extracted while digging the monument's ditches. The working of flint has been recorded at many long barrows from across Britain, sometimes long after they had first been constructed, indicating that a continued interest was taken in these monuments. In many of these cases the ditches have been recut and they may have acted as quarries both for replenishing the internal mounds and obtaining raw materials (Phillips 1989). Bradley has even suggested that the siting of long barrows may have been, at least in part, influenced by locations of known high-quality flint sources, which may also include the nearby long barrow at Woodford (Bradley 1984, 18; Harding and Gingell 1986).

Although relatively large, the assemblage probably represents the debris from a single or small number of related knapping episodes and does not necessarily indicate any intensive or longer term activity at the site. Technologically the assemblage can be dated to the Later Neolithic and there is some evidence for the use of Levallois-like reduction techniques, which are often associated with Grooved Ware using communities. The two retouched implements that were recovered from the recut are both very similar denticulated blades, which may indicate a degree of specialism to the activities that were undertaken at the barrow. Such implements were made throughout the prehistoric period although how they were used is unclear. These examples at least superficially resemble saws and their shape and sizes would have made them suitable for cutting hard materials such as bone or antler. Other possible uses for denticulated tools have been posited, including for defleshing or hide working, and for 'combing' fibrous plants such as flax or nettle (Juel Jensen 1993; Hurcombe 2007; Morgenstern 2011). While this may represent only an episode of practical concern, the acts of flintworking and/or the associated activities hinted at by the tools may have had additional deeper or symbolic connotations, given that they were undertaken at what would have been an ancient monument likely to have been laden with ancestral potency.


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