2017 Season Finds


This is an interim summary of exciting finds from the summer 2017 field season. Much more information will be made available in news items as progress continues. We can, however, say with some confidence already, that one of the excavated finds is causing many expert heads to be scratched and looks to be not only extremely unusual, but also very rare on a national level. Finds from previous fieldwork are being analysed now.

Click the images to enlarge in a new window. Please download the 2018 Interim Report for more background information and location maps of the fieldwork areas.

All images are © ICE & FIRE Eston Hills Archaeology Project.
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A large gritstone boulder between the eastern Carr Pond ‘sheep dip’ area and Oxen Hill. It displays cup-marks of likely Late Neolithic date as well as an enigmatic cruciform emblem (which might be a historical survey point). It is as yet unclear whether this stone was always flat or, at some stage, an upright monolith. Scale: 1m, facing north-east (the right side image).


Area A Test Pit A4

S025     Fragment of cannel coal or oil-shale (not Whitby jet) with polished/burnished outer convex surface and vertical slightly irregular linear tool marks on inner concave surface. Diameter 90.0mm, thickness on finished edge 5.3mm, lower break 6.3mm. Tool marks are consistent with a fine flint blade or flake. A circular ‘void’ on both the inner and outer surfaces may be an intentional piercing for suspension or repair. The inner circle has, at 20x mag evidence for being drilled or countersunk. The ‘fill’ is indeterminate mid-brown pending analysis. Cleaned with soft hair-brush and distilled water.

Similar to a recent find of jet at Greatham Creek (NAA forthcoming), also pieced, suggests this is a likely ‘napkin ring’, essentially a cloak or cape fastener of Bronze Age date. These are rare and occur in north-eastern Yorkshire, northern England and eastern Scotland, and tend to be associated with funerary activity. This would fit well with the location on Eston Hills. Specialist analysis is planned at the National Museum of Scotland (Dr Alison Sheridan and Dr Fraser Hunter).

SMALL FINDS | Chipped stone, ground stone and pottery

Test pit Areas A and B in The Paddock area have relatively high concentrations of chipped stone finds (all flint), as does Area E at Oxen Hill. In all cases, the majority of finds are of debitage (knapping debris), including some cores and core fragments – the discarded end result of knapping (or “reducing”) a flint pebble to remove usable flakes and blades. This is also reflected in the reduction sequences, that is, the proportion of outer cortex surviving on the finds, where all stages are present. The presence of burnt lithics is a reasonable indication that hearths were present, and indeed found by geophysical surveying (magnetic susceptibility) and subsequent excavation. Burning may also be associated with funerary practices and non-domestic activities. Surface finds are also prone to burning and related damage in the wild-fires and arson-fires that have occurred in the past and more recently.

We can also say with confidence that all prehistoric periods are represented in both artefacts as well as debitage. Of particular interest is a strong signal of Late Mesolithic to Early Neolithic, and perhaps even transitional (around 4000-3700 BC in our area), activity in Area B of The Paddock. This backs up prior observations related to finds brought to the surface by off-road vehicle damage and erosion.

Area A

F012     Side-and-end scraper on a crested flint blade, Neolithic.

F022     Flint flake core with multiple platforms, Early Neolithic.

F026     Awl or multi-purpose combination tool on a large, irregular corticated flint flake, Late Bronze Age.

F032     Side-scraper (or possibly irregular projectile) on a flint flake with retouch on right edge, Neolithic to Bronze Age.

Area B

F055     Broad burnt flint blade fragment (mesial) with semi-invasive retouch on right side, Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age.

F061     Narrow-blade flint microlith, probably a straight-backed bladelet, Late Mesolithic.

F062     Small flint blade core with two platforms (bi-polar) and evidence of platform preparation (grinding) to aid blade removal, Late Mesolithic to Early Neolithic.

F063     Multi-purpose tool on a white flint flake but with blade-like dorsal scars, use-wear damage and awl-piercer type point on distal end, Early Neolithic, possibly earlier given the white ‘Wolds’ flint and blade scars (consistent with Early Mesolithic activity here, possibly re-used later in prehistory).

F074     Flint core fragment possibly expediently utilised as an awl, Prehistoric, likely Neolithic.

Area E

F101     End-scraper on a large, burnt flint flake, most likely Neolithic.

F155     Utilised flint blade (overshot due to heavy knapping) with marginal retouch or use-wear damage on left edge, Late Mesolithic to Early Neolithic.

Area E Test Pit E4 posthole

P001     Pottery sherd with oxidised, iron-rich outer surface and reduced inner surface and core. It is from a hand-made jar and consistent with Iron Age ceramics in the north-east Yorkshire and Tees valley area (e.g. Thorpe Thewles), dating between the 3rd century BC to 1st century AD.

Pottery survival, especially from Neoltihic to Bronze Age periods, is not generally good due to the acidity of the soils in both upland and lowland locations, as well as frost damage where it is exposed on the surface.

Surface finds from Pig Bank

F162     Flint ovate ‘thumbnail’ scraper, Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age ‘Beaker’ period.

F163     Leaf-shaped arrowhead on a blade-like flint flake with minimal edge retouch, Early Neolithic, possibly earlier.

F164     Leaf-shaped arrowhead on a blade-like flint flake with minimal edge retouch, Early Neolithic, possibly earlier.

F166     Invasively-retouched flint knife or side-scraper. Distal-end blade fragment with possibly two phases of semi-invasive edge-retouch on a cloudy-white patinated blade. The blade blank would not be out of place in a Mesolithic or Early Neolithic assemblage. The semi-acute-angled left-edge retouch breaks the blanks’ patination but is less distinct than the right-edge and fresher-looking parallel retouch at a more acute angle. An interpretation might conclude that this is a legacy artefact that has seen two further, and time-distant, re-modifications. The present W is 18.2mm (minimum), surviving at L 28.6mm, T 5.2mm, with two dorsal blade scar removals on a substantial blade, Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age.

Area B Test Pit B19

S161     Hammerstone or rubbing stone / pounder with a thick, tapering butt. This unusual object is ostensibly axe-shaped. The narrow butt end is damaged by percussion with additional suggestions of pecking at the opposing splayed end. The top and bottom surfaces show indications of chamfering on the edges leaving flattened planes as might be expected as a function of rubbing along the long axes. While bevelled pebbles do occur on some Mesolithic sites, especially coastal, it seems more likely that this artefact is of Neolithic to Bronze Age date. Further macroscopic and microscopic analysis is anticipated. Maximum dimensions: L 95mm, W 55mm, T 23mm.

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