4.0 The Lithic Assemblage

4.1 Introduction

The lithic assemblage comprises 1518 pieces of flaked stone, including two cobble tools: a small hollowed stone and a hammerstone. A basic breakdown of the flaked lithic assemblage by type is given in Table 3.

Type Quantity
Pebbles 3
PlatformCores 9
Chunks 173
Debitage Flakes 942
Regular Flakes
Primary 20
Secondary 76
Inner 167
Retouched Flakes
Edge Retouched 4
Microlithic retouch 2
Broken 4
Retouched Blades
Edge Retouched1
Broken 1
Backed Bladelets2
Fine Point1
Backed Triangle1
Obliquely Blunted1
Table 3: A breakdown of the flaked lithic assemblage by type: by clicking on the highighted text in this table will take you to the relevant catalogue entry for that artefact type

4.2 Material

All the flaked lithic assemblage is made of flint. The surviving cortex is abraded, indicating that the material is derived from a pebble source and indeed flint pebbles are relatively abundant in local gravels. The prehistoric flint knappers probably did not have to look far for suitable material from which to manufacture their tools. Ploughsoil collection in the vicinity of the site recovered a number of largish chunks of flint that are probably natural and may well represent the sort of raw material that was being gathered for use. Some of the chunks, both from the ploughsoil and from the mesolithic site (where they are smaller and more likely to derive as a waste product from tool manufacture), are quite flawed in nature, but generally the material is of good quality. In contrast to most other mesolithic sites in Scotland, no other lithic materials were used and the inhabitants of the site at Fife Ness clearly had access to flint that was good enough, and abundant enough, for their needs.

The assemblage includes three flint pebbles, two of which have flake scars (see catalogue entry). All are small, and while they clearly indicate the type of raw material available to the knappers, they were obviously not chosen to be worked, probably because of their quality and size.

Sixty percent of the material is heavily corticated and the surfaces have transformed into a creamy colour and chalky texture (see catalogue entries of corticated material). This is a post-depositional change, dependent on soil conditions, and does not necessarily reflect the appearance of the flint when it was used. Indeed, the other flint material recovered from elsewhere in the golf course area was not nearly as heavily corticated as that from Fife Ness, and probably relates to different periods of prehistory. Where the original colour survives it is mainly grey, though some pieces are a honey colour. Some of the material is heavily iron stained and this is often associated with burnt material, of which there is a relatively high proportion (36%) mainly concentrated in certain contexts (see catalogue entries for burnt material). This is discussed below. As experimental work has shown (Finlayson 1990), not all burnt pieces show noticeable signs of the process, and so the actual number of burnt pieces from the site is likely to be considerably higher.


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Last updated: Wed Sep 30 1998