Before the Fire was Lit: Deconstructing Disturbed Palimpsests and Prehistoric Site Activities by Analysing the Differential Effects of Heated Flint at Lyminge, Kent, England.
Thomas Lawrence (Oxford Archaeology/University of Reading)
David Mudd (University of Reading)
Previous experiments associated with burnt flints can be separated into those that analyse the effect of heat on knappability and those that identify different activities around a hearth. This paper lies within the latter group, and relates morphological differences to both activity dynamics and taphonomic processes for burnt flint from a Mesolithic site, disturbed by Anglo-Saxon activity, at Lyminge, Kent. The overriding aim is to better understand flint scatter development processes for disturbed sites. Very little in-detailed analysis has been undertaken for this type of site. They make up the bulk of the archaeological record and thus deserve more attention. This paper will demonstrate an innovative methodology that assists in determining the degree of burning on flint and its spatial relationship to a heat source. The hypothesis is that flints placed on the same horizon as the fire reflect different activity dynamics and have different burning signatures compared to those on a vertical alignment to the fire. Those on a vertical alignment may reflect previous stratigraphic sequences. In this way we create a method with wider applicability for reconstructing disturbed flint scatters.
The hypothesis was tested by placing flints at varying distances on the same horizon as a fire, and at different depths below the ground surface. The changes in the heated flint were compared with the archaeological material, and suggested that certain burning signatures may reflect fingerprints for now disturbed stratigraphic sequences. This enabled us to estimate the distance of the burnt Mesolithic flint from an ancient fire. We conclude that different macroscopic signatures within burnt flint are useful for characterising activities such as pot boiling and cooking as well as for better understanding taphonomic changes to sites. We suggest that this approach may be useful for reconstructing relative chronologies at disturbed sites in the future.
Melissa Metzger (University of Bradford)
This PhD research involves investigating function of polished flint discoidal knives from the Late Neolithic/ Early Bronze Age, which are apparently unique to the British Isles. No scientific study has been performed on these artefacts and functional understanding to date is based on contextualized hypotheses from the literature. It has been suggested that these tools were status symbols and used for butchering, working hides and domestic chores. Contradictorily, recent research has proven that these tools did not function well as hide scrapers, and use-wear on the few archaeological samples studied is yet to draw firm conclusions. This research outlines the results of a preliminary study of the knives societal purpose and additional research.
The scientific study will include a catalogue of all reported polished flint knives: the discoidal series, a detailed literature review, a study of the potential effective uses of the polished edges, and an examination of similar tools to further understand manufacturing techniques. The Olympus Lext OLS-4000 Laser Scanning Microscope will be used to study the edges for use-wear; which can aid in understanding the manner of disposition and its link to the social and symbolic side of the Neolithic. Through the use of the Laser Scanning Microscope and 3d metrology, the Neolithic polished flint discoidal knives have the ability to be viewed and compared in an entirely new way, which may help to lead to new discoveries into the Neolithic society.
Symbols, identity and place: using ethnography to interpret the decorated stones of Wadi Faynan 16.
>David Mudd (University of Reading)
Excavations from 2008-2010 at the Pre-Pottery Neolithic site of Wadi Faynan 16, southern Jordan, yielded 47 decorated stone and bone artefacts. This exciting assemblage, one of the largest from the Early Neolithic Near East, consists of decorated tools and ornaments, incised bone, and pattern-incised stones. The decorated tools were used and fragmented, but show signs of continued handling before eventual discard. Some of the pattern-incised stones were manufactured to represent fragmentation. Many of these artefacts were discarded in the midden fill of a large communal structure.
The motifs have stylistic affinities to decorated items from other PPNA (and earlier) sites in SW Asia. The meaning of the different motifs is lost in prehistory, but can we discern the significance of these decorated artefacts? Using ethnographic analogy with decorated artefacts from Aboriginal Australia and Saudi Arabia I will suggest that the artefacts had three inter-related functions. First, they demonstrated social identity and lineage from a kinship group. Second, they symbolised the link between people and the place where they lived. Third, in a society where travel and contact with other communities was common, they symbolised and maintained the association between an individual, his/her kinship group, and their native settlement.