CHIPPING OVER INTO PREHISTORY

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.

Pendle’s Hidden Valley Field Walk (14 April 2018) Upper Craggs

The Joy Of Flexibility – aka. The Best Laid Plans Of Mice & Men

Alex Whitlock

 

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….

Beast Of The Day – A lovely lively local scarab
(image – A Whitlock, all rights reserved)

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.

Water supply for the fold’s sheep wash pool
(image – A Whitlock, all rights reserved)

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.

T1 – turfs up but they need to go down

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.

Find Of The Day – rim sherd of a late Medieval/early Post Medieval vessel
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.
Alex Whitlock
Beasts Of The Day – a whole bunch of them there critters

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.

2 out of 3 of the back filling team – pyramid to the fore

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.

Find Of The Day – a possible hammer stone

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?

Alex Whitlock

ps You can now make comments on posts (see below)

Beast Of The Day – this gorgeous ground beetle

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.

Trench 1 still in the sun

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.

Find Of The Day – anvil stone at an angle

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.

Alex Whitlock

Beast Of The Day – hut hoverfly
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.
1 in the sun
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.
Finds Of The Day – worked chert – Peter’s end scraper/gouge & Steven’s D shaped scraper
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….
Alex Whitlock
Beast Of The Day – the money spider who came to lunch

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.

East facing section of the Trench 1 extension

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.

Find Of The Day – Medieval yellow/green glazed ‘strap’ handle pot sherd

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.

Beast Of The Day – a somewhat worse for wear Green Veined White

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.

Alex Whitlock

My choice for Beast Of The Day (vetoed) – its all there, not necessarily in the right order though

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.

Trench 1’s extension’s sondage’s sondage – so there


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 – glacier poo aka a glacial erratic


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.

Alex Whitlock

Beast Of The Day – Pseudargyrotoza conwagana, what a name for a day flying micro moth

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.

Trench 1 Sondage A showing the pebble made feature


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.

Find Of The Day – worked quartz

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.

Alex Whitlock

Beast Of The Day – a freshly emerged lacewing

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