Two Eyes

Back to the Pleistocene this week, at least partly. At home we’ve been reading John Grant’s fantastic Littlenose books. Apart from being hilarious and giving a rush of TV Cream style nostalgia for Imperial phase Jackanory, I’d forgotten what a great fictional introduction to early prehistory the books are. Grant was sensibly vague about details of precisely when in the Ice Age all this was going on but the stories all turn on themes recognisable to Palaeolithic archaeologists. Hunting, gathering, shamanism, rock art and of course Neanderthal/modern human interactions all drive most of the plots. Our copy of ‘Littlenose and Two Eyes’ even has a useful one page chronological summary of the Quaternary at the back – something like the thing I give out in first year lectures but with better pictures.

A Neanderthal/modern human encounter as Littlenose and Father have to outwit the straightnoses with the help of a swarm of bees. (c) John Grant 1975 from Littlenose to the Rescue

We are still working on the floatation of soil samples from both sites but today I have been looking at the distribution of the stone tools and waste flakes across the site. All the worked stone finds have been washed now and I’ve been through them all checking that they are what they say on the bag. I’ve also checked that the recorded co-ordinates we have listed are right – which was mostly the case. There were one or two pairs of finds where the locations from one find had been transposed onto the other, which is the kind of thing which happens when you are doing complex recording in driving rain and wind, but fortunately there is enough built-in checks and repeats in how we record to let us unscramble all these mistakes at this stage. I’ve also thrown away about four pieces from each site which however hard I looked at them I couldn’t see any sign that they had ever been worked.

The results from today’s work are. One, just over 80% of the stone tools are various kinds of chert with the all the rest being flint. Two, there is quite a variety of different things subsumed under that broad label ‘chert’. Some of it is very fine and black and almost like flint: while other bits are grey and very very granular indeed. More detailed work on what all these rocks are is an obvious area where we need to do more research.

Once we’ve checked everything is as it should be it is possible to start looking at the distribution of finds across the site. After all, this is one of the major reasons for recording this locational information in the first place. The plot above is the distribution of worked stone from trench C, showing a big cluster of finds in the area of the ditch in the centre of the plot. There is also another little group in the bank to the right of this and another cluster towards the interior of the enclosure to the left.

This plot shows that at site D things are less clear-cut. At this stage of research all this really tells us is that there are finds from over the whole of the excavated area. Clearly there is more to do here.



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