Record Details

NHER Number:4097
Type of record:Find Spot
Name:Palaeolithic flint finds

Summary

Over 300 hundred Palaeolithic flint objects were recovered from this quarry when it was being worked during the second half of the 20th century. This assemblage includes handaxes, cores and a large number of flakes, and is of a similar composition to that recovered in earlier years from the Bartholomew's Hills pits to the south (NHER 4099). This is an important assemblage due to the presence of Levallois flakes and cores alongside many cruder, stone-struck flakes. The Levallois pieces are relatively unsophisticated and may date to a time when this technique of core preparation was in its infancy. Although many of the objects recovered remain in private hand a significant number are now held by the Norwich Castle Museum and the King's Lynn Museum.
See NHER 58863 for details of unprovenanced Palaeolithic material from the area, much of which may been recovered at this quarry.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TF 8051 1474
Map Sheet:TF81SW
Parish:SOUTHACRE, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

A large number of Palaeolithic worked flints were recovered during quarrying in this area in the second half of the 20th century. The deeper workings lay in four separate locations, all of which are now marked by large lakes. The first area to be worked lay to the north of South Acre Hall and was open by the early 1960s (TF 8075 1455). By the early 1970s the quarry had been extended to the north-west. These first two pits were known as the Thorpe Gravel Pits. In the later 20th century the quarry changed hands, after which it was known as the Middleton Aggregates Pits. Two new areas were opened up, the first of which was largely worked out by 1988 (TF 7985 1503). The last area to be worked lay at the extreme west of the site (TF 7956 1484). The quarry finally closed in the summer of 1997.

DISCOVERIES IN THE THORPE PITS

1950s/1960s. Stray Find.
Recovered by [1] from "Southacre Pit":
1 Palaeolithic flint handaxe and a number of Palaeolithic flakes. Presumed to be from the Thorpe Pits, rather than the Bartholomew's Hills pits to the south (NHER 4099). This assertion is supported by the fact that this finder is known to have recovered other finds in the vicinity of the Thorpe pits around this time. These finds are now held by the King's Lynn Museum (KILLM : 1977.130.8). Information from (S1). Previously recorded under NHER 15725.

1962. Stray Find.
The Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (CUMAA) holds 2 handaxes from South Acre that were donated by H. Le Strange in 1962. These had been found the same year in a “gravel pit 0.5 miles [0.8km] north-west of the church”; suggesting these objects were almost certainly found in these pits. Information from museum records.
Although Roe (S2) noted the presence of finds from South Acre in the CUMAA, he associated these with the nearby Bartholomews Hills pits. This is likely to be an error as it appears that the objects donated by Le Strange are the only finds from South Acre held by this museum. It should be noted that Wymer’s typological chart for South Acre only includes one object from CUMAA.

The British Museum Wymer Archive was found to contain a drawing of a third handaxe that had been in the possession of H. Le Strange (S26). It is noted that this sharp, slightly patinated handaxe had been given to Le Strange by [6] and was originally recorded as being from “Middleton Aggregate’s Pit, West Acre. In 1989 communications between [6] and [7] confirmed that it was from the South Acre pits – it was presumably found around the same time as the handaxes in the CUMAA. Its present whereabouts are unknown.

1958. Stray Find.
According to (S1) a King's Lynn Museum (KLM) record map has "Nov 1958. Cleavers and handaxes. [2]" marked near to the second of the Thorpe Pits. Although no such finds appear to be held by the KLM, it seems likely that these finds are in fact two handaxes and a cleaver that were found by [2] at the Thorpe Pits in 1959 (KILLM : 1959.9; KILLM : 1959.46). These finds were previously recorded under NHER 4098. These finds are likely to be the finds from the "Thorpe Gravel Pit" listed by (S2) as being in the King's Lynn museum.

1960. Stray Find.
Found by [3]:
3 Palaeolithic "Acheulian" flint handaxes. See watercolour illustrations (S3) (S4) and (S5) and pen drawings (S6), (S7) and (S8). The general grid reference for these finds suggests that they were recovered from the south-easternmost pit. Information from (S9).
These finds were reported in (S10) and are almost certainly the three handaxes recorded in (S2) as coming from the "new gravel pit". A sketch on the reverse of (S9) indicates these finds were recovered from a 3' (0.91m) thick layer of gravel that lay directly above the chalk and beneath a 6' (1.83m) deep deposit of sand. Although an NCM accession number is given by (S9), this appears to relate to finds found in 1964.

1964. Stray Find.
Found by [3] in same pit as 1960 discoveries:
4 Palaeolithic flint handaxes (three ovate) and 1 Levallois core. Information from (S1). Now held by the Norwich Castle Museum (NCM) (NWHCM : 1977.124.5 : A).

According to (S11) the finder of these objects [3] had in fact acquired approximately 50 flint implements from quarry works in this area. These objects have no precise locational information and do not appear to have been donated to any of the Norfolk Museums.

This HES holds photocopies of two handaxes (S12), (S13) from South Acre that were part of H. Apling's collection. One is marked as having been found by [3] and it is possible that both were originally objects recovered in this pit by [3].

1965-1966. Stray Finds.
Recovered c. 900 yards [823m] north-west of South Acre Hall:
At least 2 Palaeolithic flint handaxes . The approximate grid reference given for these finds suggests they had probably come from the second pit to be opened. These objects were found c. 50 yards [45m] apart (one in June 1965 and one in June 1966), at a depth of at least 40' (12.20m). Information from (S1). These discoveries were also reported in (S14). The finds themselves are now held by the NCM (NWHCM : 1966.334), along with at least 8 additional handaxes that appear to have been found at this site around the same time.
Previously recorded as NHER 4098.

1966. Stray Find.
Found by [4]:
1 Palaeolithic flint handaxe with broken end and another "primitive implement". The current location of these finds is unclear. Information from (S1).
Previously recorded under NHER 4098.

11 April 1967. Stray Find.
According to a note on (S9) "fossil wood" was recorded in the pit on 11 April 1967, a discovery that was reported to King's Lynn museum.

Mid 1960s. Stray Find.
Found 'some years ago' (mid 1960s) in South Acre Pit by. Retrieved from hopper conveyor:
2 Palaeolithic flint handaxes; both stained brown and rolled; one ovate with plano- convex section and cortex on butt; the other pointed (ficron) with tip missing. See drawings in file (S15) and (S16).
'Others were found at about the same time'.
Information from [5].
A. J. Lawson (NAU), 16 June 1982.
Previously recorded as NHER 18198.

1968. Stray Find.
Found by R. J. MacRae during brief visit to quarry:
1 Palaeolithic flint handaxe . Information from (S17). The present location of this artefact is unknown, although it may be part of the MacRae collection held at the Donald Baden-Powell Quaternary Research Centre (now part of the Oxford University School of Archaeology).

21 January 1971. Field Visit.
Visit to Thorpe Pits by J. J. Wymer. The pit was no longer worked but was until recently, and there were still large mounds of sand around the screening plant. From conversation with workmen it appeared that most of the discoveries had been made at the west end of the pit, under a newly planted young conifer plantation (which still survives: TF 8027 1498). Information from (S18), which also includes photographs of the quarry. It is clear from a sketch plan of the site that a considerable area to the west of the deepest workings had also been disturbed.

Around 1974. Stray find.
"Found in area of sand pits about half mile west of Southacre church and on opposite side of road, between road and river":
1 Palaeolithic flint handaxe. Golden brown. See drawing (S19)
Seen by J. J. Wymer (NAU) in 1984 and now held by the NCM (NWHCM : 1993.203.1 : A). Information from (S1).
The recorded provenance for this finds suggests it was probably recovered from somewhere in the vicinity of the second of the Thorpe Pits.
Previously recorded under NHER 15725.

RECENT DISCOVERIES

Further Palaeolithic material was recovered from this quarry during the excavation of the new pits that were been opened up following the closure of the original Thorpe Pits. Most of these finds were recovered from the reject heaps that lay near the screening plan at the eastern end of the quarry.

August 1982. Field Visit.
Site visited by J. J. Wymer (NAU). Fresh workings in the pit had exposed a deep c. 10m section of sand and poorly-sorted gravel, but no artifacts were found. Information from (S20). See copy of photograph of section in file (original in British Museum Wymer Archive).

12 September 1985. Field Observation.
Found by R. J. MacRae on spoil heaps near screening plant:
1 Palaeolithic ?handaxe fragment and 4 rolled and stained flakes.
Information from notes in British Museum Wymer Archive, see copy in file.

10 October 1985. Field Observation.
Found by J. J. Wymer (NAU) on spoil heaps near screening plant (at same location as the finds recovered the previous month):
5 Palaeolithic rolled and stained/patinated flakes.
Information from notes in British Museum Wymer Archive, see copy in file.

13 August 1994. Field Visit.
Site visited by J. J. Wymer, R. J. MacRae and T. Hardaker. Examination of large heaps by the screening plant from workings at the distant west end of the pit. Nothing found. Information from (S20).

27 October 1995. Stray Find.
Found in scree by J. J. Wymer:
2 Palaeolithic rolled ochreous flint flakes Information from (S20). These finds were previously part of Wymer's personal collection (W4397-W4398), which is now held by Royal Holloway College.

November 1996. Field Observation.
The British Museum Wymer Archive was found to contain a drawing by T. Hardaker of a flake implement that he had found at South Acre in 1996, presumably at the Middleton Aggregates Pit (S27). This is described in associated correspondence simply as the “South Acre implement”. See copy in file. The present location of this object is unknown.

20 May 1997. Stray Find.
Large reject heap searched by J. J. Wymer and R. J. MacRae.
Found by MacRae:
5 Palaeolithic five flakes.
Found by Wymer:
1 Palaeolithic unifacial flint handaxe (made on a part struck and part thermal flake), 1 large handaxe thinning flake and 1 large primary flake.
Information from (S21), which also included a sketch showing the arrangment of the screening plant and its associated stone heaps. These finds are now part of the Royal Holloway College Wymer Collection (W4404-W4406).

10 June 1997. Stray Find.
Large reject heap searched by J. J. Wymer and R. J. MacRae. Found after two hours of searching:
1 Palaeolithic flint flake. Information from (S21). This find is now part of the Royal Holloway College Wymer Collection (W4409).

Mid 1996 to mid 1997. Field Observation.
It is known that R. J. MacRae made 26 visits to this quarry between the summer of 1996 and the closure of the quarry in mid 1997, this total presumably including the visits noted above. On each occasion he spent several hours searching the reject heaps for artifacts. According to (S17) around 250 artefacts were recovered, these being listed as:
17 handaxes of various types and sizes (including two butts)
2 handaxe roughouts
4 struck Levallois cores
1 unstruck Levallois core
1 Levallois flake
3 Acheulian cores
230 Acheulian flakes
These discoveries were briefly noted in (S22) (incorrectly associated with NHER 15725). The handaxes are a "mixed bag", although pointed forms dominate. The flakes were notable for their large size, with many massive stone-struck examples with prominent bulbs. It was noted that two of the struck Levallois core had produced only small flakes and that the cores "…fail to show advanced preparatory skill…". See (S17) for further details and illustrations of one of the Levallois cores and a Levallois flake - see copies of originals held by HES (S28)-(S29). According to (S17) seven handaxes and 200 flakes were handed to the NCM, although it appears these have yet to be formally accessioned. See also correspondence in file (from British Museum Wymer Archive. The only finds from MacRae currently listed in the NCM's records are 9 "Palaeolithic flints" that were accessioned in 1998 (NWHCM : 1998.369).
See file for copies of relevant correspondence between Macrae and other researchers regarding his Southacre discoveries (from British Museum Wymer Archive).

11 January 1998. Field Visit.
Site visit by J. J. Wymer, R. J. MacRae, D. Bridgland and S. Lewis. Pit had recently ceased working and the reject heap was much diminished. A narrow long section cut E-W between plant area and recent workings nearer West Acre. No artifacts found. Information from (S21).

OTHER FINDS

The King's Lynn Museum hold a significant number of unprovenanced Palaeolithic finds from Southacre, including a number of handaxes and several flakes. Most, if not all, of these objects are likely to have been found either at this site or in the Bartholomew's Hill pits to the south (NHER 4099). All of these finds were assessioned prior to 1967 and it is probable that many were recovered from the Thorpe Pits, particularly as there is no evidence to suggest that two of the three finders had visited the Bartholomew's Hills pits prior to their closure. See NHER 58863 for further details.

THE NATURE OF THE ASSEMBLAGE

The large assemblage of Palaeolithic artefacts recovered from this quarry shares a number of characteristics with that recovered in early years from the nearby Bartholomew's Hills pits (NHER 4099). As at the Bartholomew's Hills site the material is of particular interest due to the evidence of Levallois techniques in an assemblage that also includes a large numbers of relatively crude stone-struck flakes. Wymer (S23) felt that it was reasonable to conclude, on the basis of their condition etc., that the finds from these two sites represented a single industry. He regarded these finds as “…the best example in East Anglia of ‘Proto-Levalloisian’”. As MacRae noted, it is possible that the small number of Levallois pieces found at these sites date to a time when this technique was in its infancy.

Finds from this site are also listed in (S24) and (S25).
P. Watkins (HES), 12 June 2013 (unless otherwise specified).

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)

Associated Finds

  • CLEAVER (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • CORE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • HANDAXE? (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • LEVALLOIS CORE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • LEVALLOIS CORE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • LEVALLOIS FLAKE (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)
  • ROUGHOUT (Lower Palaeolithic to Middle Palaeolithic - 500000 BC to 40001 BC)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Secondary File: Secondary file.
<S1>Archive: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
<S2>Monograph: Roe, D. A. 1968. A Gazetteer of British Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Sites. CBA Research Report. No 8. p 239.
<S3>Illustration: Ripper, B. 1960. Watercolour drawing of a Palaeolithic flint handaxe from Southacre Gravel Pit. Paper. 1:1.
<S4>Illustration: Ripper, B. 1960. Watercolour drawing of a Palaeolithic flint handaxe from Southacre Gravel Pit. Paper. 1:1.
<S5>Illustration: Ripper, B. 1960. Watercolour drawing of a Palaeolithic flint handaxe from Southacre Gravel Pit. Paper. 1:1.
<S6>Illustration: [Unknown]. 1960. Drawing of a Palaeolithic flint handaxe from Southacre Gravel Pit. Paper. 1:1.
<S7>Illustration: [Unknown]. 1960. Drawing of a Palaeolithic flint handaxe from Southacre Gravel Pit. Paper. 1:1.
<S8>Illustration: [Unknown]. 1960. Drawing of a Palaeolithic flint handaxe from Southacre Gravel Pit. Paper. 1:1.
<S9>Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Palaeolithic.
<S10>Serial: 1960. Council for British Archaeology Group 7 Bulletin of Archaeological Discoveries for 1960. No 7. p 5.
<S11>Archive: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards.
<S12>Illustration: Photocopies of a Palaeolithic flint handaxe from Southacre gravel pit.
<S13>Illustration: Photocopy of a Palaeolithic flint handaxe from Southacre gravel pit.
<S14>Serial: 1966. Council for British Archaeology Group 7 Bulletin of Archaeological Discoveries for 1966. No 13. p 5.
<S15>Illustration: Lawson, A. 1982. Drawing of a Palaeolithic flint handaxe from Thorpe Pits, Southacre. Paper. 1:1.
<S16>Illustration: Lawson, A. 1982. Drawing of a Palaeolithic pointed flint handaxe from Thorpe Pits, Southacre. Paper. 1:1.
<S17>Article in Serial: Macrae, R. J. 1999. New Lower Palaeolithic Finds in Norfolk. Lithics: Newsletter of the Lithic Studies Society. No 20 pp 3-9. pp 5-9.
<S18>Unpublished Document: Wymer, J. J. Journal. Vol 6. pp 3-4.
<S19>Illustration: Robins, P. 1974. Drawing of Palaeolithic flint handaxe from Thorpe Pits, Southacre. Paper. 1:1.
<S20>Unpublished Document: Wymer, J. J. Journal. Vol 7. pp 104, 206, 217.
<S21>Unpublished Document: Wymer, J. J. Journal. Vol 8. pp 8, 9, 15.
<S22>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. (ed.). 1999. Archaeological Finds in Norfolk 1998. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIII Pt II pp 358-368. p 359.
<S23>Publication: Wymer, J. J. 1985. Palaeolithic Sites of East Anglia. pp 45-50.
<S24>Unpublished Document: Wessex Archaeology. 1996. The English Rivers Palaeolithic Project. Regions 9 (Great Ouse) and 12 (Yorkshire and the Lincolnshire Wolds). N&W-1, No. 5.
<S25>Website: TERPS online database. Site 23055.
<S26>Illustration: Wymer, J. J. 1988. Drawing of a Palaeolithic flint handaxe from the Thorpe Pits, Southacre South Acre. Paper. 1:1.
<S27>Illustration: Hardaker, T. 1996. Drawing of a Palaeolithic flint (?Levallois) flake implement from the Middleton Aggregates Pits, Southacre Aggregates Pits, Southacre South Acre. Paper. 1:1.
<S28>Illustration: Wymer, J. J. 1990s. Drawing of a Palaeolithic flint Levallois core from the Middleton Aggregates Pits, Southacre. Card. 1:1.
<S29>Illustration: Wymer, J. J. 1990s. Drawing of a Palaeolithic flint Levallois flake from the Middleton Aggregates Pits, Southacre. Card. 1:1.

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