3. March Hill Overview

Figure 1

Figure 1: March Hill Trench A excavations in context

The lithic assemblage from our case study, March Hill site A (Fig. 1), was excavated between 1993 and 1996 (funded by English Heritage and West Yorkshire Archaeology Service, Spikins 1996a). This assemblage was most notable for its high integrity and minimal finds disturbance, as illustrated by detailed stratigraphic modelling (Spikins 2002) as shown in Figure 2. Artefacts recovered from the site were remarkably small and much reduced, mirroring the intensive reduction of small river pebbles and relatively local raw materials typical of the area. The average length of artefacts was only 24mm, with the 79 microliths or fragmented microliths being small (average 12mm). Lithics analysis and refitting was carried out by Chantal Conneller (1996), and indicated a sequence of knapping episodes orientated around a series of four hearths, dated to around 5800 BP by 8 ams and extended count dates (Fig. 3).

Figure 2Figure 3

Figure 2: The integrity of artefacts at March Hill according to the modelled stratigraphy (for further details see Spikins et al. 2002)
Figure 3: March Hill Carr Trench A finds distributions showing patterns of refitting

The lithics analysis prompted several questions about the use of the site, and of similar sites in the Pennines. Such sites have been typically interpreted as upland hunting camps (Jacobi 1973; 1976; 1978), specifically because of their small size (Fig. 4) and the concentration of microliths among finished tools. However, there appear to be certain biases that may be influencing our interpretations of such assemblages. The small size of such sites typically reflects the difficulty of excavating rapidly deepening plateau peat, for example, and a seeming focus on microliths could stem from the difficulty of knapping 'standard' formal tools from small-scale material (with blades and flakes used for other functions). A detailed analysis thus called initial interpretations into question, suggesting that such sites may have played a more central role in settlement (Spikins 1999), perhaps key points lying between routeways along rivers (Spikins 1996b).

Figure 4

Figure 4: Example of cores recovered from Trench A

What might a new approach to lithic analysis, entirely separated from regional research traditions, and a new technique, that of microwear, contribute to this question?


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