2. Approach

This article briefly describes some of the mineralogical and geochemical aspects of the commonest forms of greenstones that have been used to fashion hand axes by Neolithic peoples in the UK. From the geological point of view, it appears that many of the different petrological classes of hand axe could (in part) reflect variable mineralogical assemblages produced by differential low-grade metamorphism, and could even be sourced from one large exposure used for axe manufacture. Recognition of this feature might allow archaeologists to retype axes that were once placed in disparate groups.

Another important aspect is the value of geochemical fingerprinting of axes, a method that has been used successfully in typing and locating obsidian artefacts in Europe (e.g. Thorpe et al. 1984), sourcing and analysing metals (e.g. Cooke and Aschenbrenner 1975; Balmuth and Tylecote 1976) or identifying carved stone sources (e.g. Becker 1976). Today, with the advent of portable XRF spectrometers the analysis can be non-destructive, carried out in the field and provides comparable results to laboratory-based analysis (Potts et al. 1995; Markham and Floyd 1998).

It is well known that a combination of petrology, geochemistry and texture can be used to source stone axes, but only if there are sufficient data on suspected manufacturing sites or geological locations identified by the archaeologist.


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Last updated: Wed Jul 1 2009