8.2.6 Distribution and Dating

Vertical distribution

Apart from the lithic finds from Phase 1 (probably prehistoric in date, all flint artefacts are residual. However, the lithics from this phase are not numerous and comprise two natural pieces [292, 312], one hard-percussion flake [2371], two bipolar flakes [324, 2370], one soft-percussion blade [287], two indeterminate pieces [285, 286], one crested flake [2028], one split pebble [2373], one single-platform core [287], one bipolar core [2372]and one flake with edge-retouch [2046]. The blade and the single-platform core suggest an Early Neolithic date of this sub-assemblage.

Horizontal distribution

As suggested above (raw material, assemblage and technology sections), the assemblage most likely represents two main sub-assemblages. Profile A concentrated in the Church and Graveyard areas, as well as the 1980-1 excavation, with the odd stray find in West Range trenches (A and B). Profile B heavily dominated West Range (Trench A) but overlapped with the other trenches. Profile A material has its centre of gravity towards the north, whereas Profile B material has its centre of gravity towards the south.

The southern sub-assemblage (mainly West Range A) consists primarily of black&grey flint artefacts manufactured in more robust techniques (bipolar and hard percussion), whereas the northern sub-assemblage (Church, Graveyard and 1980-1 excavation) consists mainly of flint from the orange group supplemented by other high-quality flint types. All blades belong to this type of material, and were manufactured by the application of soft percussion. Due to the great differences between the two technological approaches it is assumed that the black&grey artefacts in the Church, Graveyard and 1980-1 excavation belong to the southern sub-assemblage. Some regular single-platform flake cores were retrieved from all trenches, but they probably belong to the northern sub-assemblage. Their wide distribution may be due to the so-called 'centrifugal effect' which mainly affects larger objects (Stapert 1992, 34-36). This effect is associated with prehistoric site maintenance activities, either in the form of 'preventive maintenance' or 'toss' or actual post hoc clearance of the site (Binford 1983, 189-90).

The different tool groups are distributed evenly across the various trenches, but a closer inspection demonstrates that tools on regular flakes, or shaped by well-controlled techniques or retouch, generally derive from the northern part of the site.

As indicated in the technology section, the small sub-assemblage from the 1986 excavation probably form a distinct group of its own. This material, which was recovered north-east of the church and just north of the graveyard, is mainly in flint of the orange group but dominated by bipolar and hard percussion techniques.


Apart from the scalene triangle [2369], the only diagnostic types or technological attributes in the assemblage are types or attributes with a low degree of diagnosticity. A well-controlled blade-technology on regular single-platform cores suggests a date of either the Early Mesolithic or the Early Neolithic (Profile A). The blades from the Church area (Trench H) tend to be very regular with parallel lateral sides and parallel dorsal arrisses, and they are generally relatively delicate. This fact differentiates them from many Early Mesolithic blades which are usually quite robust (e.g. Coles 1971, 302-3; 1983, 14-15), and they may therefore be from the Early Neolithic period. True blades were not produced during the Late Neolithic (apart from the period's earliest part) or the Bronze Age (Pitts and Jacobi 1979, 176; Ballin 2011). Unfortunately very few Neolithic assemblages have been published from Scotland, but blades are known to form part of many Neolithic pitchstone assemblages (e.g. Marshall 1978), and they are included in many English Early Neolithic collections (Butler 2005, 119).

One distinctly Neolithic or Early Bronze Age attribute is invasive retouch. The retouch of side-scraper [278] is very flat and almost invasive, and even though it was found in Trench A, its colour (orange/yellow) and quality of retouch associates it with the northern sub-assemblage. Finely serrated pieces are mainly associated with the Early Neolithic period (e.g. Smith 1965, 91 [Windmill Hill]; Bamford 1985, 74 [Briar Hill]; Clark et al. 1960, 214 [Hurst Fen]; Saville 2002; 2006), and at the Carmelite Friary three of these implements were recovered from the northern part of the site, whereas a fourth serrated piece was found in the southern part.

The black&grey material (the southern sub-assemblage) is technologically very poor. It is possible that a small number of these pieces are ballast flint, but there are so many obvious tools (scrapers, borers, etc. see Section 8.2.4) in this raw material, that they undoubtedly form a sub-assemblage of worked flint (and represent a specific industry). There are no diagnostic types or attributes associated with this type of flint, but as all phases from the Early Mesolithic to the Early Bronze Age manufactured blanks (be they blades or flakes) and tools applying acceptable knapping skills, it must be assumed that the southern sub-assemblage may be post Early Bronze Age. The idiosyncratic types, and the lack of a schematic reduction technique, compares well with Later Bronze Age flint assemblages from southern Britain (Ballin 2010; 2011).

The lithic finds from the 1986 excavation include one scalene triangle [2369], which is undoubtably Later Mesolithic (e.g. Pitts and Jacobi 1979, 164), but the general lack of blades, and the marked dominance of hard and bipolar percussion techniques over soft percussion, suggest a date in the Late Neolithic or Bronze Age periods for the majority of these artefacts.

The assemblage contains a small number of microblades which may be Mesolithic [185. One [227] (a notched piece) was discussed above as a possible rough-out for a microlith, but, apart from the scalene triangle [2369 and the three burins [2041, 249, and 270], there are no definite Mesolithic types from the site.

45-59 Green

This site was located immediately north-northwest of Trench H and investigated as part of the 1973-81 excavations of the Burgh of Aberdeen (Murray 1982). The collection from the excavation of the Green 45-59 has many similarities to the northern sub-assemblage from the Carmelite Friary: it is mainly in 'yellow-honey' colours (60.9%), and, according to the catalogue and the illustrations (Kenworthy 1982, 212-15, Ill 120, 122), it represents a blade/microblade technology. Due to the presence of microliths/microburins and microblades ('bladelets'), most of the lithic assemblage from the 1973-81 excavations was assigned to the Late Mesolithic. However, the majority of Kenworthy's illustrated 'bladelets' from Aberdeen sites including Queen Street, Broad Street, Shore Brae and St. Paul Street (Murray 1982) seem to be broad blades (e.g. bladelets [id no. nos. 169, 170, 185, 188, 189]) with widths of up to 16mm (for a definition of blades and microblades, see Section 8.2.3). The major part of the flint assemblages from the Aberdeen excavations of the late 1970s are therefore more likely Early Mesolithic or Early Neolithic. The microburins from the Green are definitely Mesolithic, and the microliths and microblades illustrated by Kenworthy (Murray 1982, ill. nos 120 cat, nos.194-200) may belong to a Later Mesolithic narrow blade assemblage.


Internet Archaeology is an open access journal. Except where otherwise noted, content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY) Unported licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that attribution to the author(s), the title of the work, the Internet Archaeology journal and the relevant URL/DOI are given.

Terms and Conditions | Legal Statements | Privacy Policy | Cookies Policy | Citing IA

Internet Archaeology content is preserved for the long term with the Archaeology Data Service. Help sustain and support open access publication by donating to our Open Access Archaeology Fund.