4. Stone Axes and Adzes

So far, 76 stone and flint axes and adzes have been discovered in the 20 x 30km Foulness Valley landscape study area (Table 1). Information about these was collated from Sites and Monument Records, a number of museums including Hull, York and Scunthorpe, and from members of the public, especially local farmers. One example was found by the writer during the potato harvest at the family farm of Hasholme Hall in 1975, and the most recent, in January 2008, by Mr Brian Hawe of Holme-on-Spalding Moor, during an inspection of spoil from drainage trenches at Harswell. Few were found during systematic field survey. Almost all the axes within the region have been recorded at least by parish (Fig. 3).

Figure 3

Figure 3: The quantity of axes per parish – each dot is centred within the parish. Number at Holme-on-Spalding Moor = 22

Fifty-seven of the tools, however, could be plotted to an accuracy of six figures or greater on the Ordnance Survey National Grid, thus allowing some basic forms of spatial analysis to be undertaken through ARC GIS. Measurements and lithology were available for the majority of the tools, though it was not possible to examine them all.

Many of the Foulness Valley axeheads were from distant sources: Group VI from Great Langdale in the Lake District, Group VII from Graig Lwyd in North Wales and Group XVIII possibly from Northumberland, and are tabulated below. Group XVIII Whinsill rock, which outcrops along the Northumberland coast and in Teesdale, is, however, quite common as boulders and cobbles in the Devensian tills down the Yorkshire coast, a source which may well have been utilised in the Neolithic (Manby pers. comm.).

Table 1: Foulness Valley axes and adzes according to petrological group

Group Number
Flint 18
I 1
unidentified 18
VI 26
VI? 3
Total 76

A single Group 1 axehead, possibly of Cornish origin, was found in the Foulness Valley at Woldgate School, Pocklington, though some implements previously thought to be of a Cornish origin may have derived from a northern source at Carrock Fell in the Lake District (Davis et al. 2007). The paucity of Group I axes in the Foulness Valley contrasts with the large numbers of this type found further up the coast around Bridlington (Manby 1979, 76, fig. 8). The tidal estuarine inlet referred to above provided access along the Humber to the coast and would make it possible for Group 1 axeheads to enter the region by boat. It is likely that this was the mechanism by which axeheads of other groups arrived; indeed the largest concentration of axeheads within the 20x30km study area is 'fanned' around the head of the Walling Fen inlet (Fig. 9). Further research and petrological analysis of unidentified specimens is needed in order to provide further elucidation of axe sources.


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Last updated: Wed Jul 1 2009