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Tuff, Flint, and Hazelnuts: Final Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Occupation at Netherhall Road, Maryport, Cumbria

Ann Clarke and Magnus Kirby

with contributions by Diane Alldritt and Fraser Brown

Cite this as: Clarke, A. and Kirby, M. (with Alldritt, D. and Brown F.) 2022 Tuff, Flint, and Hazelnuts: Final Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Occupation at Netherhall Road, Maryport, Cumbria, Internet Archaeology 59.


Abraded worked tuff
Abraded worked tuff

Evidence for Final Palaeolithic and Mesolithic occupation at Maryport, Cumbria, was discovered during the excavation of Roman occupation features by CFA Archaeology Ltd. A varied lithic assemblage was recovered including worked flint (55%) and tuff (43%), with the rest consisting of a small amount of chert, chalcedony, and rhyolite. Early occupation, probably dating to the Final Palaeolithic Federmesser-Gruppen, is demonstrated through different technological styles among the lithic assemblage. Three phases of activity were identified from cut features and there was a significant amount of charred hazelnut shell, which gave radiocarbon dates centring around 8200 cal BCE.

This site provides the first clear evidence that tuff was exploited directly from sources in the Central Lake District, possibly as early as the Final Palaeolithic. The occupation evidence also demonstrates intensive processing of hazelnuts centring around 8200 cal BCE and lasting for 150–558 years. The dates and occupation span are almost identical to those derived from the Mesolithic structure at Cass ny Hawin 2 on the Isle of Man.

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  • Keywords: archaeology, tuff, Holocene, Cumbria, lithics, Final Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, flint
  • Accepted: 15 June 2022. Published: 15 August 2022
  • Funding: This publication was funded by Story Homes Ltd.
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Correspondence contact: Melanie Johnson
CFA Archaeology Ltd, Musselburgh

Ann Clarke
Freelance specialist, North Berwick

Magnus KirbyORCID logo
CFA Archaeology Ltd, Musselburgh

Full text

Figure 1: Location map showing Mesolithic site relative to Roman-period features

Figure 2: Plan of Mesolithic features showing phases of activity

Figure 3: Prehistoric site post-excavation

Figure 4: Trench sections across Mesolithic site

Figure 5: Phase 1 and 2 features underlying colluvial deposits.

Figure 6: Sections through Phase 1 features

Figure 7: Sections through Phase 2 features

Figure 8: Phase 3 feature 452 cut through colluvial deposits

Figure 9: Composition of lithic assemblage. B - Blade; RF - Regular flake; FF/IF - Flake fragment/Irregular flake; SF - Small flake; Core - Cores and flaked/unflaked pebbles; Ret - Retouched tools; Chunk – Chunks

Figure 10: Proportions of raw materials used in assemblage

Figure 11: Amount of pebble cortex present on flint flakes and blades

Figure 12: Flint showing pebble cortex 105.308-16

Figure 13: Mottled blue/brown flint 105.299-303

Figure 14: Banded tuff 106.76

Figure 15: Fresh blue tuff 412. 1-18

Figure 16: Light abraded tuff L-R 106.80; 106.92; 105.65; 105.39

Figure 17: Abraded tuff L-R 105.41; 105.23; 106.65; 106.82; 459.1-2

Figure 18: Very abraded tuff L-R 105.85; 105.54; 106.81; 105.38; 105.87; 105.99

Figure 19: Carboniferous chert L group 514.31-3; R group 105.330-5

Figure 20: Chalcedonic material 105.328; 105.134

Figure 21: Cobble tool 106.WS14; Flint cores: Mottled blue brown flint 105.299-303; Pebble flint 106.22; 105.297; 106.21; 105.296; 456.1

Figure 22: Dimensions of cores and core fragments

Figure 23: Flint crested blade: 105.274; Tuff crested blades 486.6; 105.76; 106.65; 106.82; 456.6. Flint knife forms 105.276; 106.19. Tuff edge retouched 462.13

Figure 24: Tuff cores and core working

Figure 25: Dimensions of crested blades

Figure 26: Flint blade dimensions by phase

Figure 27: Tuff blade dimensions by phase

Figure 28: Retouched tools: Tuff edge retouched 105.124; Flint awl 105.65; Flint Awl/Burin 514.6. Chert cores 105.47-8.

Figure 29: Flint scrapers 105.305; 106.47; 520.1; 105.240; 456.4. Tuff end scrapers 486.10; 105.123. Flint backed points 106.109-10. Pieces 105.305 and 106.10 are broken at proximal end (not shown in illustration).

Figure 30: Tuff microliths: Microlith fragments 106.108; 105.120; 486.11; Partially backed 105.122; Point fragment 105.264; Obliquely blunted blades 105.118, 105.119. Flint microliths: Scalene triangle 106.16; Crescent 105.262; Microlith fragment 106.17; Partially backed 105.263; Backed blade 446.1.

Figure 31: Dimensions of tuff blades and surface alteration

Figure 32: Dimensions of tuff flakes and surface alteration

Figure 33: Context type and artefacts. B - Blade; RF - Regular flake; FF/IF - Flake fragment/Irregular flake; SF - Small flake; Core - Cores and flaked/unflaked pebbles; Ret - Retouched tools; Chunk - Chunks

Figure 34: Material use and context type

Figure 35: Material use by phase. Small flakes are represented separately from the other flaked lithics

Figure 36: Tuff blades and flakes by phase

Figure 37: Flint blades and flakes by phase

Figure 38: Proportions of flint and tuff by context type

Figure 39: Modelled radiocarbon sequence for Maryport, Cumbria

Figure 40: Duration of activity at Maryport, Cumbria

Figure 41: Duration of activity dated with charred hazelnut shell at Maryport, Cumbria and Cass ny Hawin 2, Isle of Man (CnH2)

Table 1: Composition of assemblage: B - Blade; RF - Regular flake; FF/IF - Flake fragment/Irregular flake; SF - Small flake; Core - Cores and flaked/unflaked pebbles; Ret - Retouched tools; Chunk - Chunks. See Appendix B for definitions.

Table 2: Types of retouched tools

Table 3: Summary of evidence for at least two different flaking industries

Table 4: Radiocarbon dates. Calibrated using OxCal v4.3.2 and the IntCal13 atmospheric calibration curve. Modelled dates (posterior densities) in italics

Table 5: Statistical significance of paired dates

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