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The Age of the British Flint Mines

  • Grahame Clark and Stuart Piggott

There were two main sources of supply of flint available to early man,–superficial deposits whether in the form of river gravels, sea or lake beaches, or nodules incorporated in surface soils, and deposits beneath the surface of the ground for which it was necessary to mine or quarry. While it is generally true to say that mined flint was of superior quality and more easily worked than the superficial variety it must not be forgotten that the magnificent honey-coloured flint of Grand Pressigny, which in the dawn of the first age of metal was traded to Switzerland, North France, Brittany, Belgium and even Wessex, occurs naturally in the form of surface nodules. In passing it may be observed that the so-called livres de beurre, the most typical product of these Chalcolithic workshops, are technically no more nor less than elongated tortoise-cores from which were struck long flakes with faceted butts. In view of the play that has been made with the presence of ‘Mousterian’ technique in our British mines this is not without its significance.

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1 In the Blackmore collection at Salisbury there is a fine narrow flake, six inches in length and of the unmistakable honey-coloured flint of Grand Pressigny. It has a shallow triangular section, showing two primary flake-scars with a central ridge of intersection opposite the flat bulbar surface. The butt is faceted. On either sideof the pointed end there is secondaryflaking from both edges but in each case on the upper face only. Near the butt-end there is a notch on one edge. Both the nature of the raw material and the technique of working betoken a product of the workshops of Grand Pressigny. This object,which is hitherto unpublished, is labelled as coming from ' Furlong Farm, West Grimstead I, a site to the southeast of Salisbury.

2 Burkitt, M.C., Prehistory, p. 68.

3 Only well authenticated flint mines have been included in the map. Thus, so far as England is concerned, we have made various omissions, chief of which are the primitive pits at Maumbury, sometimes classed as flint mines. These pits are admittedly baffling, but the flint mine explanation seems to us definitely wrong : e.g., the bzse of pit I, which is 30 feet deep, is described as ' basin-shaped ' and as having a diameter of 1.5 feet by 1.2 feet. The improbability that anyone would sink a shaft 30 feet to extract less than two square feet of Aint does not require stressing. See Dorset Field Club, vols. XXIX-=I. Other flint mines are suspected at High Wycombe (Museums Journal, 1902–3, 2, 156), and at three sites in Norfolk : Buckenham, Eaton,(both in J. Ethn. SOCL. lond., ser. 2, vol.2, 432), and Whitlingham (William Arderon, Royal Society, 1746, and information from H. H. Halls) ; in none of these cases, however, is the evidence sufficient to justify inclusion on the map.

4 Morehead, W.K., Primitive Man in Ohio, chap. 4.

5 Whereas no single species of exclusively Pleistocene age was obtained from Grimes Graves during the 1914 excavations such a recent species as the sheep was identified by DrAndrews, F.R.S., Report onexcavations at Grimes Graves, 1914, pp. 218–9.

6 In their report on the mollusca found at Grimes Graves during the 1914 excavations Messrs Kennard and Woodward drily remark, p. 231 : ‘Ithas been suggested that these excavations are of “Cave Age,” i.e., late Pleistocene, but the zone fossils of that period are well-known, and are all absent’.

7 Greenwell, W., J. Ethn. SOCo.f London, ser. z, vol. 2. 429; also Armstrong, A.L., P.P.S.E.A. 5, 99;

8 Greenwell, W., op. cit. p. 430, and pl. 30. fig. 2.

9 Smith, R.A., Report, Excavations at Grimes Graves, 1914, p. 211, and fig. 81.

10 Smith, R.A., Archaeologia, 63, 121, and fig. 17.

11 Curwen, E.C., Sussex A.S.C., 70, pl. XVI, nos. 176–7;LXXII, pl. XIII, no. 37.

12 Williamson, R.P.R., Sussex A.S.C., 71, pl. XVI, no. I .

13 At Oxford. It is inadequately illustrated in J.R.A.I. vol. V, pl. XVIII, fig. 8.

14 Sussex A.S.C., 71, p. 57ff, nos. 20, 21, 23, 30.

15 Mortimer, J.R., Forty Years’ Researches, pp. 102–5; and Piggott, S., Arch. f., 88, 99.

16 See e.g. bowls from Spiennes, Childe, V.G., Arch. f. 88, pl. I, opp, p. 46.

17 MrsCunnington, , Pottery from theLong Barrow at West Kennet, pl. I, no. 4.

18 See e.g. bowls from Armstrong, A.L., P.P.S.E.A.. 4, p. 113, and p. 182; V, p. 101.

19 Ibid. 5, p. 103; VII, p. 57.

20 Ibid. 5, p. 123; See also Report on Excavations at Grimes Graves, 1914.

21 Ibid. 3, p. 552;

22 >Ibid, VII, pl. IV, fig. 3.

23 Ibid. 4, p. 122 and fig. 6.

24 Ibid. 3, p. 548.

25 Ibid. 3, p. 441.

26 Ibid. 3, p. 441.

27 Clark, J.G.D., Mesolithic Age in Britain, p. 112.

28 The sherds show no characters sufficient to date them conclusively, though Mr Christopher Hawkes, F.s.A., says they might quite well be Hallstatt. If this is so they must clearly be intrusive—in spite of the ‘sealed’character of the deposit.

29 Armstrong, A.L., P.P.S.E.A. 3, p. 440.

30 Burkitt, M.C., Our EarLy Ancestors, p. 174; Kendrick, T.D., The Axe Age, p. 164.

31 Armstrong, A.L., P.P.S.E.A. 3, pp. 439–40.

32 Ibid. p. 438. ‘The style of work and type of implement is distinctly Mousterian in character, large Levallois flakes and flakeimplements of Northfleet type predominating’.

33 Ibid. p. 557. ‘The general facies of the implements is distinctly Palaeolithic,Mousterian in tradition, but favouring aposition about that of Abri Audi’. N.B.—It may be explained thatAbri Audi shows a transition from Late Mousterian to Early Aurignacian, and is probably to be accounted for by the influence of the incoming upon the established culture.

34 Armstrong, A.L., P.P.S.E.A. 5, pp. 99100. ‘The presence on the lowest floor of Naturalistic drawings of animals, in association with finished artifacts of Upper Palaeolithic facies’.

35 One of us has drawn attention to the Campignian traits to be seen in the flints of the mining industries (The Mesolithic Age in Britain, pp. 113-14). But this may have no more chronological significance than the well-known occurrence of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic forms. In any case we have no convincing evidence that any of our English mines were exploited before Windmill Hill times.

36 Only horse and red deer were obtained. See P.P.S.E.A. 2, 557.

37 DrStone, J.F.S., Wilts. A.M. 45, p. 350ff.

38 Advance information from Dr Stone. See forthcoming Wilts. A.M.

39 Letter from Reid Moir to J.G.D.C.; this will be quoted at length in Dr Stone’s paper.

40 Major, Wade, P.P.S.E.A., 4, 84–6, and fig. 2.

41 Report on Excavations at Grimes Graves, 1914, p. 24.

42 Favraud, A., Rev. anthropologique, 21, 130.

43 DrStone, J.F.S., WiZts. A.M. 45, 354.

44 Major, Wade, P.P.S.E.A., 4, 83–4.

45 It is not without significance that in their report on mollusca from Whitehawk Neolithic camp (Sussex A.S.C. 71, 84–5), Messrs.A. S. Kennard and B. B. Woodward, who examined the Grimes Graves material fromthe 1914 excavations, state :‘The evidence thus obtained from Whitehawk Camp is in strict agreement with the facts furnished by Blackpatch, Harrow Hill and the Trundle (Sussex), Windmill Hill (Avebury, Wilts.),Grimes Graves (Norfolk)…’.

* We are afraid we cannot recommend a recent publication on this important site (J. H. Pull, Flint miners of Blackpatch, Williamsand Norgate, 1932). While we recognize that the suit must have yielded most valuable evidence it is presented so unscientifically that we cannot utilize it.

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