Our current Prehistoric dig has revealed a surface studded with fragments of abraded and worked chert under 5mm, many under 2mm, suggesting it was where someone sat up to 10.000 years ago making stone tools.

Probable Mesolithic surface detail
All Rights Reserved – Alex Whitlock

If you look at the photo, the material we are interested in is the small black bits of stone. Many of the sharply angled bits are debitage while the more rounded pieces have been abraded or worn by natural processes, like being rolled in the water or soil. Debitage is the stone left over from making stone tools – a sort of lithic sawdust.

Unsurprisingly, these tiny fragments of stone are often missed in excavations. One of the benefits of the dry weather, and not rushing, is that we have been fortunate enough to spot these micro finds and change our approach to the excavation accordingly. End result – we are now mixing it with the Mesolithic.

Alex Whitlock, August 2018


Please note – this is a closed dig and not open to members of the public.

We returned to the past today. In order to make the most of the time we have left we are opening three sondages in the existing trench. A sondage is basically a trench within a trench. We must be getting further back in time as today was aceramic. Our finds trays were all devoid of pottery but contained many pieces of worked chert.

Trench 1 Context 3 and Sondage C being excavated

Find Of The Day is…….Finds Of The Day….again. Well, you may be shocked to find out, it’s worked chert. The two examples pictured were found by in Sondages B and C.

Finds Of The Day - worked chert
Finds Of The Day – worked chert

Beast Of The Day was a furry friend saved from a watery doom. The Tegenaria was then reluctant to leave me until I placed it somewhere secluded.
For the rest of the week will be excavating by sondage. Hopefully we will manage to get back to the time before humans first stood upon this bit of Great Britain.

Alex Whitlock

Beast Of The Day – a furry friend saved from a watery doom

We were at it again today, delving underground, lifting up rocks to peer into Pendle’s past. It’s getting more complex and older. The largest amount of pottery today was Medieval & there was precious little of that though Gayle did find a beauty. By far the most prolific material found today was stone, and chert in particular. The contexts we are working through have more stone in them than the upper two strata. Our finds are suggesting that the locals had been working lithics (making stone tools) in prehistory.

Trench 1 Context 4 or Feature 1 aka Idris’s Doughnut

The archaeology is getting more complex as well as older. The prime example of this is Idris’s Doughnut – picture above. Idris was tasked with excavating a potential feature in the north west of the trench. It turned out to be quarter of a shallow pit with a raised centre – a bit like a fossil ring doughnut. The fill had quite a lot of good quality silver grey chert in it.

Find Of The Day – the first charcoal of the dig

Also in the fill was the Find Of The Day, the first charcoal we have found on the dig. Charcoal is important to archaeologists because it has the potential to provide dating evidence through Carbon 14 testing. C14 is a radioactive isotope that decays at a steady rate so it is possible to tell from the amount left how long an organism has been dead. Charcoal from quick growing trees like hazel & willow produces more accurate dates than from trees like oak or ash. The testings not cheap though.

Beast Of The Day – a highly mobile cybermat

Beast Of The Day was found scooting around at high speed on the edge of the doughnut. It looks like a tiny little (less than 10mm) cybermat – and for certain garden pests it is just as deadly. The miniature terror is a rove beetle, probably Tachinus rufipes.

We will be digging tomorrow, day off Tuesday, then back to the trenches on Wednesday etc – and hopefully further back in time.

Alex Whitlock

Yay – it was digging weather again today and we worked our way down to our third context in the main part of the trench and played catch up in the extension. We are getting quite a bit of microlithic (ie tiny) flint mixed up with pottery from about 300 to about 700 years ago.
Trench 1 Context 2 (in the extension) and Context 3
Find Of The Day was made somewhere in the middle. Gayle found a ‘Marles’ chert side scraper or knife. The working edge is the top edge and you can see where it has been retouched (a way of sharpening the stone) at the skinny end. There is a series of removals on the other side to make it more comfortable to use.
Find Of The Day – ‘Marles’ chert tool. The working edge is the top edge.
The beast with two backs is our Beast Of The Day. It is actually two beasts of the same Chloropidae species doing their best to ensure that species survival.
Beast Of The Day – the beast with two backs aka a pair of very amorous Chloropidae
In an attempt to resolve various prehistoric questions raised by the dig, and compensate for days lost to rain, the dig will remain open into next week, except for Tuesday when the site will be closed. We are very grateful to the landowners for giving us the opportunity to bring the dig to a satisfactory conclusion.
Alex Whitlock

Pendle from Hays Lane

Today’s field walk explored the valley that connects Barley and the Ogden Valley with Thorney Holme, Roughlee, and the main Hidden Valley. Starting at Barley we walked up Hay’s Lane and followed that to Thorney Holme. Running down the south side of the valley, this rather rough public highway affords famous views of Pendle (above) at one end and out to the border with Yorkshire (below) at the eastern end.
View East from Hays Lane

Walking along it we were able to look across to the other side of the valley and spot what appeared to be the remnants of an older system of fields. Dropping down into Thorney Holme we peeked over a wall to look at the former gunpowder store (below) that once supplied some of the local quarries. After crossing White Hough Water we picnic-ed in full sun near what may well have been the original site of Roughlee Hall.
Gunpowder Store, Thorney Holme

After lunch we commenced our return leg, ascending the north side of the valley before dropping down briefly to the valley floor through White Hough. On the western side of the small cluster of buildings, some a good number of centuries old, we climbed up through Bollard Wood to have a look at some of the features we had seen from Hays Lane. We found a number of artificial platforms but were unable to determine their original purposes. We also found evidence of an old road or track that predates the first OS maps of the area. It may relate to the platforms, but the again, it might not. This track runs through the features we had seen from Hays Lane. These were indeed the remnants of an older more haphazard field system. This is likely to be Medieval or earlier in date and the fields were probably stocked more than cropped.

From this field system we dropped back down to Barley to complete our circuit of the valley, some of us realising that a hat might have been a good idea after all. Before we did so we took a moment to take in the view over Barley toward the high ground hiding Newchurch to the south west (below) and Spence Moor & Ogden Clough to the west. During our walk a few pieces of worked chert were found – the oldest dating to between c.7000 and c.3500 BC. We had walked a long way back in time.

View over Barley from above Slank Laith (aka Stang Laith)