9. Lithics from Ambleside

A series of finds from Ambleside is also of interest. Excavations and watching briefs in the vicinity of the Roman fort have, over the years, consistently produced a small amount of prehistoric lithic material, both from within the fort itself and from the vicus area to the north and west of the fort. An initial report of a flint core rejuvenation flake found in road works on Borrans Road, adjacent to the fort (Fell 1974), was followed by a number of finds during the reinvestigation of the Roman granary within the area of the fort itself in 1989-90 (Healy 1993). Thereafter, a programme of minor excavations and a watching brief in the area of the vicus (Drury and Dunwell 2004) produced a small number of further finds (Dunwell et al. 1993).

All of the finds appear to be from disturbed or unclear contexts. It is, however, clear that, in this area, there was prehistoric activity, and it is probable that there are a number of lithic scatters. This is the only evidence for lithic scatters on the margin of lakes in the central Lake District that has so far emerged. Evidence of deposition of artefacts on lake margins, such as that of a group of stone axes at Portinscale, near Keswick (Clare et al. 2002), shows activity of a rather different kind.

The recorded finds thus far appear to represent a blade industry. No diagnostic artefacts, either microliths or leaf (or later) arrowheads, are recorded. As such, by analogy with lithic scatters in both eastern and western Cumbria, the potential date range for these artefacts could end in the late 4th or early 3rd millennium bc. It is therefore perfectly possible that the prehistoric activity they represent could coincide with early Neolithic activity in Great Langdale, around 10km to the north-west (Bradley and Edmonds 1993).

Some 17 artefacts in total are recorded. In addition to the flint core rejuvenation flake noted by Fell (1974), excavations of the granary produced a further ten artefacts, six of flint and four of volcanic tuff (Healy 1993). The subsequent excavations and watching brief over further works on Borrans Road produced another six artefacts, three of flint and three described as chert (Finlayson in Dunwell et al. 1993).

The flints found in the granary excavations include four said to resemble the chalk flints found in eastern Cumbria, but also two bladelets of yellow flint resembling Irish Sea beach pebble flint in colour. One of the two yellow flint bladelets, however, had cortex which resembled that from gravel flints. The colour of the flint reported from the Borrans Road area is not noted.

The writer has seen the tuff artefacts described by Healy (1993), which were made from small nodules of tuff with a patinated cortex, and include a blade and a scraper. The tuffs used range from pale grey-green to charcoal grey in colour. They do not appear to be from a homogeneous source.

Thus there appears to be evidence, in this small assemblage, of virtually every kind of raw material utilised for toolmaking in any part of Cumbria during the prehistoric period. This area is one that would repay further investigation.


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Last updated: Wed May 27 2009