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.
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.
Pendle’s Hidden Valley Field Walk (14 April 2018) Upper Craggs
The Joy Of Flexibility – aka. The Best Laid Plans Of Mice & Men
The intention had been to look at possible prehistoric features between the Nick Of Pendle and Ogden Clough. And for the first few hundred yards we stuck to that resolve. However, half our number were largely unacquainted with the area and there was a degree of curiosity about our earlier digs around Craggs. So….
We struck out for the old clamp kilns we dug a couple of years ago. En route we visited the Chartist Well and tried, And not for the first time, to find the track of the original track to Craggs Dole – marked on maps until very recently. Once again it eluded us but it did take us to the site of the kilns. Having sped along at 1 mph (1.6 kph), we decided to have an early picnic in the bowl of the kilns. For some it was an opportunity for a little lie down – the urge probably set in lack of motion by my potted history of our exploration. A local (above) had it heard it all before and tried to leg it (x6).
Rested we continued along the probable line of the medieval highway, passing above the site of Great Craggs. From there we took advantage of low bracken levels to look at previously uninvestigated areas. A series of one thing after anothers led us to the outline of a small building that had not been recorded before. Nearby were some enigmatic scatters of stone.
A short stroll down to look at the old sheep folds and its later system of water management (above) and we reached our point of return. We walked back to Great Craggs at a lower level than our outward journey. As we did so the sun came out and a light bulb appeared over my head. The newly discovered features were above an area that has produced worked chert (below), limestone’s version of flint, in the past. There exists the strong probability that one of these scatters of stone may have been used in prehistory.
Prehistoric chert blade fragment. Find of the day?
(image – A Whitlock, all rights reserved)
So in spite of deviating from the original plan, we did find another piece of the area’s prehistoric puzzle. Replete with new knowledge, we returned to the cars along the Victorian track from Churn Clough Res in bright sun with layers being shed on the way. There was also quite a bit of sago in the puddles….
After yesterday afternoon’s colossal effort, this morning was sedate. Georgina & I spent the morning cleaning the worst off some of the finds so that they could be stored until it was time for proper cleaning and analysis. We also had a look at the trench & put a few sods back in place. The rest need to go down. Weather permitting, I will probably do that on my lonesome on Friday (unless anyone is fool enough to come & help). Rain is forecast tomorrow which should mean it won’t be as hot as it was when we refilled the trench yesterday.
Georgina managed to get a Find Of The Day! She spotted a small piece of pottery among the sods and it turned out to be a rim sherd from a late Medieval/early Post Medieval vessel – quite a fancy one too. It is quite finely potted with glaze both inside & outside, possibly from something like a drinking bowl.
Beasts Of The Day were a colony of pond skaters making the most of the available water, cute little things & very soothing to watch them.
That is pretty much it for these daily write ups. There will be updates as and when new developments emerge – particularly as we start the post excavation process. Keep your eyes open for sessions you can join in with on the Future Events page.
My thanks are extended to all those who have helped or come to visit us – especially Catherine, Gayle & Steven who put in many hours of hard work, also Georgina, Idris & Peter – and to our hosts who gave us such luxurious quarters as our site hut.
It has been an odd fortnight or so – we arrived on site expecting to find remnants of the Medieval occupation site and have ended up with what looks like a prehistoric knapping site. That’s Pendle’s Hidden Valley and archaeology for you – ask them questions and you are always going to be surprised by the answers.
Yesterday we finished digging, so today we had a few things to do before we could start throwing all the stuff we had taken out over the last fortnight back in again. Sooooooooooo in the morning we photographed and recorded all the sections (the sides) of the trench. Only then did an elite task force of three put over seven tonnes of stone, soil, & etc, back into the trench and tamp it down ready for the turf – in under 4 hours mind you. Just goes to show how tough rice pudding skins can be. I was amazed and have to say a huge thank you to Idris and Peter for their superhuman efforts. Hope they can move in the morning.
Find Of The Day was among the stones removed from the feature. It will need confirmation but we seem to have at least one hammer stone from Feature 1.
Beast Of The Day was a gorgeous ground beetle that spent time running over us ensuring we were free from slugs.
All that remains to be done on site is putting the sods (that huge Mesoamerican pyramid in the pic) back where they came from & putting the site hut back as it was before we invaded.
Then it’s the post ex, starting with washing the finds we have found since the last rainy day – anyone up for a bit of scrubbing?
ps You can now make comments on posts (see below)
Last day of digging today. Even hotter than yesterday so regular retreats to the shade with bottles of water were necessary. A bit more Context 3 was peeled back & Features 1 and 2 were recorded and excavated. The trench photo was taken at close of play today.
Find Of The Day made up part of the structure of Feature 1. It has slumped onto its side but the original packing and bedding is visible in the section photo with a 10 cm scale leaning against it. It is almost certainly an anvil stone used by the prehistoric inhabitants to knap stone tools. A lot of worked chert debitage (waste) has been found in the feature & this should help give us a date when analysed.
Beast Of The Day was a site hut hoverfly. It was being quite territorial & attacked any nasty flies (greenbottles mainly) that came into the hut.
Tomorrow morning the sections will be recorded and then in the afternoon we have over six tonnes of material to encourage back into our excavation.
We had more fathers than mothers on site today and it was scorchio. Sondage D has been taken down to ‘the natural’, Feature 1 has been cleaned up and recorded, ditto Feature 2, and elsewhere more of Context 3 is being peeled back. Judging from the pottery found in it, Context 3 looks like it is probably Medieval and will hopefully give a clearer picture of how people lived on the site in that period.
The Finds Of The Day are chert tools. Peter found a late Bronze Age/early Iron Age end scraper/gouge & Steven unearthed a D shaped scraper, probably Bronze Age, in Feature 2.
As we picnicked in the shade we were joined by a rather cute money spider – probably a Linyphiidae species. It was quite happy to have its picture taken and is our Beast Of The Day.
One full day of digging left then its recording and backfilling on Tuesday. Many hands make light work and all that – nudge nudge wink wink….
Today I started recording some of the sections and to help me do this I used some high tech – to wit a camera & some cotton buds . Well I do like the sections to be kept nice & clean. We make a record of the sections so that we have some idea of the layers of history (& different types of dirt) we have cut through. For our special guest diggers, the next generation of archaeologists, it was also a useful demonstration of the story archaeology can tell about a place.
Gayle bagged yet another Find Of The Day – a lovely piece of a Medieval green glazed ware. Its a sherd from the top of a ‘strap’ handle off a large vessel, possibly a pitcher or flagon. They are called strap handles because they are made by attaching a strap like, rather than tube like, piece of clay to the vessel.
There were lots of candidates for Beast Of The Day but as the weather was so much warmer they were much harder to photograph. My choice was a horsefly with amazing psychedelic eyes, but this was vetoed as I had rearranged it a bit. The actual Beast Of The Day was a somewhat worse for wear Green Veined White that alighted on the dig diary.
The weather bodes poorly for trench photography but fine for those digging for the rest of the dig. We have two more full days of digging then we will backfill on Tuesday arvo.
We have been concentrating on the feature previously known as Idris’s Doughnut and trying to find ‘the natural’. The Doughnut continues to grow and now seems to be a made cobble platform of some sort & probably pre-dating the existing buildings in the area. The surface a short distance below it certainly pre-dates them – it was probably there when humans returned to the area as the ice retreated at the end of the last ice-age (not the film fyi). In different parts of the trench, Steven & Catherine dug through this grey silt and clay strata to expose a layer of stones dropped by the glacier as it traveled through the valley. These layers are ‘the natural’ so mission partially accomplished. In another sondage, in another part of the trench, Gayle had started to expose the top of what looks like the the silty layer by the end of the day.
Steven’s journey into the deep past involved the pictured sondage within a sondage. The stoney layer is so closely packed that we were unable to get the point of the ranging rod into the ground. The white section (NOT including the point) is 50cm which gives some idea of the thickness of this layer. The silt and clay was probably deposited when the area was covered by a lake or slow moving body of water.
Find Of The Day comes from the layer of stones below the silt. It’s a decent sized lump of sandstone that the glacier has carried from where it was formed and then dropped in our trench. There it sat patiently for about 15000 years or more, waiting for Catherine to come along and wrest it from it’s resting place. These bits of stone that drop from the bottom of the glacier are known as glacial erratics.
The Beast Of The Day has two rather splendid names – Pseudargyrotoza conwagana for formal occasions but Yellow Spot Twist to its friends.
Tomorrow we are hoping to unearth some more clues about our pebble made feature.
I’m sure the site’s archaeology is taunting us. Sondage A revealed what looks like the rest of the Doughnut. It’s a feature built of medium sized pebbles and it may well be a pad to go under a wooden post.
After a day of finding mostly worked stone, today continued in much the same way (see Find Of The Day below) until….. near the pebble feature, Steven foung a large piece of late Medieval/early Post Medieval pottery. I had been wondering if the feature related to a Medieval structure and this suggests it was. What is confusing is why we have had so few finds from Anno Domini and so many from BC. I have been having thinks about that…
Find Of The Day is from BC (not Before Chert). It is a piece of worked quartz or quartzite, representing the increasing amount of this that we have been finding.
The one that is Find Of The Day is a wedge of quartz or quartzite that has then been retouched along its working edge – bracketed in red. Its a very hard material to work with any degree of control and it may have been more for ritual or show than practical use.
Beast Of The Day is a freshly emerged lacewing that took a shine to Georgina. Lacewings are predators of a number of pests including aphids.
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.
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.
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.
Just another Manic Monday.
Started off trying to make sure the small finds (individually numbered and measured in because they may be important) & bulk finds (recorded in bulk by context) were bagged and labeled properly and that all the paperwork matched up while the others started attacking context 3 in earnest.
Its been an odd context so far – some rather late looking glass & 2 bits of metal work, no pottery to speak of, and lots of lovely chert.
Find Of The Day is more Finds Of The Day. The Finds being the 2 bits of metal work. One was from Context 3 and the other from 4 (the Doughnut context). I’ve chosen them because they pose us a rather unwelcome puzzle. They need to be examined more before any thoughts can be formulated.
Beast Of The Day was a racing ground beetle larva, probably looking for some tasty slug snacks.
Rest day tomorrow then back into the pit on Wednesday.
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.
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.
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 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.
Piddling down today so a few of us mainline archaeo junkies did some finds cleaning and on-the-hop site analysis. The top of context 3 has had a nice wash and cool down ready for a good doing over on Sunday.
As is becoming usual with finds’ laundry days, Find Of The Day became obvious only after cleaning. Today’s little treasure was only in the finds tray as a bit of fun. One of our newer diggers had thought it was something like a scraper so I decided it could stay in the tray as an example of an ‘eolith’. A century or so ago these were stones originally thought to be artefacts of Britain’s earliest inhabitants but turned out to be of natural origin – the resemblance to actual tools being natural happenstance. People actually collect these lookalikes. Anyhooo once cleaned up our pet eolith bit us on the bum. With t’muck removed its true use was immedietely apparent. Covered in cut marks, smoothed grains, and the characteristic wide shallow U profile of an old fashioned sharpening or honing stone. If you have an old well used whetstone look at it side on and you will see that classic profile. A surprise find.
Beast Of The Day is Empis tessellata, a fly on stilts with a taste for flowers jeweled with rain. It seemed to be supping the nectar from the bloom.
One final note – while we will be digging next week, the site will be closed on Tuesday. We will be digging again on Wednesday though.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The rain returned today and it seemed to be enjoying itself. We cleaned about a third of yesterdays finds and theorised about what the artifacts we have found so far may tell us about the site’s history. We also looked at our soggy trench and saw a few things that have been exposed by the rain – see if you can spot a couple below.
Today we had a visit from Stuart Noon, the author of the recently published ’50 Finds From Lancashire’ (available in the Pendle Heritage Centre bookshop), who threw in a few theories of his own. It was he who spotted impressions on our daub fragment.
Find Of The Day is said fragment of daub with impressions left by the wattle. This may be from the existing 16th century building or from an earlier structure. Daub is notoriously hard to date and was used widely from prehistory until fairly recently.
Beast Of The Day was a cute little Garden Spider (& the remains of its last meal – possibly an earlier Beast) who kept us company in our site accommodation.
Wonderful Wednesday indeed after the deluge of the previous two days. No rain and the stream was running clear. Today we continued lowering context 2 and are playing catch up in the small uphill extension.
We are having to go frustratingly carefully at the moment. Usually we would be at least twice as far down but there has been a significant amount of material pre dating the Georgians that requires a degree of delicacy and care so we can’t be too bullish.
Find Of The Day was by Catherine in the extension and is pre Georgian but not particularly delicate. It is a sherd from what was probably a Stuart platter or charger.
There was a bit of competition for Beast Of The Day. Cuteness won and the decision went to a miniature myriapod, probably a baby centipede.
The rain continued over night and into today which had left the nearby stream looking a bit excitable.
To accommodate the weather we had a late start and finished off some of the finds work in the morning.
After lunch we deturfed an extension to the trench. Gayle spotted the Find Of The Day on the newly exposed surface. It was tiny heat crazed microlithic flint chipping.
The prevailing conditions meant the indigenous wildlife was a little reticent about showing itself. Beast Of The Day ended up being a damaged Diptera sharing our site accommodation.
Forecast for tomorrow is good and the turfs up so its time to trowel ten.
Today we started on our first ‘proper’ context (image below). In other words the first undisturbed archaeological layer. We were still finding Victorian material and prehistoric chert but we have also unearthed some Medieval pottery.
The first & best sherd of Medieval pot was found by Steve and is our Find Of The Day. It probably comes from the house that preceded the current one. This would almost certainly have been a timber framed building.
Beast Of The Day went to lawn grub that greeted us in the morning.
Please note that even if the weather is misbehaving we will still be working at the dig site. Our wonderful facilities mean we can start cleaning the finds and assessing the site based on what we have found.
Alex Whitlock, leader of our archaeology group and expert on lithics (stone tools) gave an informative and entertaining talk as he brought us up to date on the work the group have been undertaking on Pendle Hill. Evidence of habitation by mesolithic people (10,000 to 5000BC) to the modern day have been found represented by hand worked chert (flint is a type of chert) to broken, mass produced pottery.
The starting point is often to walk the area (field walking), asking questions e.g. why is that bit of land flat (a platform) when the surrounding area is sloping? Is there evidence of a building on the site? What is that long indentation on the moor? Is it a trackway, is it a boundary ditch? Is it a disused watercourse? These questions can sometimes be answered by reference to old maps but sometimes an archaeological dig is necessary. The problem is that it often raises more questions than answers!
A case in point was high up on Pendle where there was evidence of burning. Despite opening a couple of pits and confirming that there almost certainly had been a kiln, there was little evidence to show what it was for.
Small pieces of limestone were found, so were they burning pieces of limestone, left behind by the glaciers, in order to sweeten the land? Vitrified rock (rock that has been melted by intense heat to produce a glass like substance) was also found. Was it used for smelting metal ore of some kind or even producing bricks from the local clay. We may never know but samples of charcoal have now been analysed to ascertain which are most likely to give a good radio carbon date so whilst we may not know what was being done, we should soon know when it was in use.