10. Archaeological Discussion

Seven implements have been demonstrated to show secure Carrock Fell provenance and a further two implements are shown not to come from this source. None of the implements were shown to have a probable Cornish provenance (Markham 2000). These findings have several important implications, outlined below.

  1. The research confirms, with geochemical evidence to support petrological classification, that the Carrock Fell Gabbro was exploited in prehistory for stone tool manufacture. Therefore, the research supports the establishment of the Carrock Fell Gabbro as an important IPG petrological group (Group XXXIV) by Fell and Davis (1988). Whether rock was quarried or gathered at outcrop, or obtained from glacial or fluvial sources is not yet known.
  2. The rock outcrop sites for the seven implements with Carrock Fell provenance, can be plotted and used to identify dispersal trends of implements from the matching (source) outcrops (Fig. 2). Figure 10 shows the implement types and dispersal patterns. Preliminary analysis of the data indicates three important archaeological points. Firstly, the majority of the implements were found close to the geological source; secondly, the majority of the implements are axes, which are typically Neolithic in age; and thirdly, three are shaft-hole implements (mace heads) which may date to the Bronze Age. According to Smith's chronology based on implement typology, the stone tools made from Carrock Fell rock indicate dates ranging between 3250 bc and 1700 bc (Smith 1979, 14). In this case, implements from Carrock Fell may be contemporaneous with Group VI implements from the central Lake District. The failure to match Carrock Fell Gabbro rock with battle axes, and the large axe hammers – which show close typological affinity with Group XV axe hammers from southern Cumbria and Group XVIII axe hammers from the northern Pennines – suggests that the exploitation of Carrock Fell Gabbro in prehistoric times declined from a peak in the Neolithic, through the Bronze Age, and ceased in or before the Iron Age. These observations accord with Pearson and Topping's proposals for the Carrock Fell hill-fort enclosure (Pearson and Topping 2002). They also throw new light on the concentration of axes from Lake District sources found in East Yorkshire, especially around Bridlington Bay.
  3. Figure 10

    Figure 10: Dispersal map of Group XXXIV implements

  4. The results of this research can pin-point possible extraction and implement working sites on Carrock Fell (Fig. 2). The field evidence suggests similarities in terrain between Carrock Fell and other areas of known prehistoric tool-making activity. For example, with Cooney's Lambay site where porphyritic rocks were quarried (but the aspect is different because Lambay is an island) (Cooney and Mandall 1998); with Burrow's (2007) small outcrops which mark the contact zone extending southwards from Houlder's Group XXI axe-making sites (Houlder 1961) at Mynydd Rhiw (but the aspect is different because Mynydd Rhiw lies on a peninsula); and from the Group VI quarrying and axe-making sites in the Great Langdale and Scafell Pike areas (Claris and Quartermaine 1989). Implements with Carrock Fell provenance typically show Group XXXIV characteristics, including interstitial quartz and granophyric textures. Figures 11 and 12 are photomicrographs of typical Carrock Fell Gabbro rock, for comparison. The occurrence of Group XXXIV gabbro is geographically limited in outcrop within the Carrock Fell Complex and is equated to the Buck Kirk Gabbro and White Crags Leucogabbro of Eastwood et al. (1968). This knowledge can be used to search for prehistoric quarrying and implement manufacture sites systematically.
  5. Figure 11Figure 12

    Figure 11: Photomicrograph of typical Carrock Fell Gabbro rock (CRF 005)
    Figure 12: Photomicrograph of two typical textures in Group XXXIV rock (CF 17-14)

  6. It will not be easy to identify Carrock Fell implements macroscopically because they differ so much in texture (from fine to coarse), colour (from speckled green/white to brown/grey to green/black) and in tool type (axe, axe hammer, mace head); there was no adze in the study sample.
  7. Carrock Fell, like the Langdale Pikes and Scafell Pikes, is clearly visible from a considerable distance, especially from the lower Eden valley to the north-east, the upper Eden valley and Pennine edge to the east, and the limestone uplands around Shap to the south-east (Cherry and Cherry 1987; Clare 2007) – all of these areas are rich in prehistoric monuments and remains. The relationship between the hill-fort enclosure, situated prominently on Carrock Fell summit and the likely source outcrops to the south and east deserves further attention. The sourcing of Group XXXIV to the leucogabbroic rock to outcrops on the south side of Carrock Fell in the vicinity of White Crags (Fell and Davis 1988), is confirmed. The adjacent enclosure was surveyed by the RCHME as part of their Industries and Enclosures in the Neolithic Project (Pearson 1996, 4). The RCHM recognised that since the date of the hill-fort enclosure has not been fully resolved, its proximity to a potential source for the production of stone axes raises the possibility that the enclosure might be Neolithic in date. This theme was more fully considered by Pearson and Topping (2002), who explored the possibility of a Neolithic context for the monument. They concluded that the enclosure may be one of a group of henges or hengiform structures which, by the end of the later Neolithic period, constituted a local tradition of deliberate modification of traditional monument forms. They suggested a desire by local groups or communities to differentiate themselves from adjacent areas by creating their own regional variations of monuments. This hypothesis – about increasingly distinctive individual groups and communities – could equally be applied to Group XXXIV stone implements, for example the range of tool types, stylistic and morphological variation, implement manufacture technology and assumed chronology.
  8. Epidiorite rocks of supposed Cornish origin dominated the early implement petrology groups (Keiller et al. 1941). In 1937, pioneer implement petrologists Wallis and Evens (IPC archive documents) suspected a 'greenstone' source in northern England; they suggested Carrock Fell as worthy of exploration. But their suggestion was not taken up until almost 60 years later (Davis 1983). Consequently, the research reported in this article raises questions about the extent to which implements of supposed Cornish origin found in northern England and elsewhere may, in fact, have originated more locally; theories of distant and local dispersal patterns may need revisiting.
  9. In his inaugural lecture: Towards an archaeology of mind, delivered before an audience at the University of Cambridge, Renfrew suggested that the materials of archaeology can indeed be used to allow inferences about the cognitive processes of past societies (Renfrew 1982, 23). Perhaps the research presented in this article might lead us closer to the mind of the makers and users of stone tools in prehistory?


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Last updated: Wed Jun 10 2009