Record Details

NHER Number:16753
Type of record:Monument
Name:Mesolithic flint working site and ?medieval ditch

Summary

Between 1978 and 1980 fieldwalking recovered a large number of Mesolithic worked flints within a small part of this field. A subsequent trial excavation demonstrated that the scatter was limited to a small area, with Mesolithic flints present throughout the plough soil and in the undisturbed subsoil beneath. The restricted area in which these flints were found made the assemblage of particular significant, making it likely that it represented a single industry produced at one time, for one purpose. The decision was therefore taken to excavate to recover the Mesolithic flint assemblage, which was at risk of being dispersed by ploughing. This work took place between 1986 and 1987 and recovered over 30,000 Mesolithic flints. It was the first such assemblage to be excavated in a controlled manner in the county. The flint industry was focused on the creation of blade, with the majority of the 563 core recovered being blade cores and blades themselves accounting for approximately 39% of the assemblage. Implements recovered included 320 microliths (all obliquely blunted types), 2 tranchet axehead, a number of fragmentary core tools, many scrapers, burins and a range of other retouched flakes and blades. The debitage included axe-sharpening flakes, burin spalls and a large number of core trimming. Overall the assemblage is consistent with an Early Mesolithic date and is broadly similar to that recovered at the prolific Mesolithic site on Kelling Heath (NHER 6246). It is possible that the site was used as a temporary camp by itinerant hunters, occupied for perhaps a few days rather than weeks. Although no features of Mesolithic date were identified it is possible that abrupt changes in the density of the flints represented barriers such as windbreaks or some form of dwelling.

A number of medieval and post-medieval objects were recovered including pottery sherds, brick, tile and glass. The presence of these objects in the subsoil suggested that the site had seen at least a degree of disturbance, most likely by rabbits. The site was also crossed by a single ditch of probably medieval date.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TG 1276 0620
Map Sheet:TG10NW
Parish:GREAT MELTON, SOUTH NORFOLK, NORFOLK

Full description

Substantial in situ Mesolithic flint scatter, first identified in 1979 and fully excavated between 1986-1987. A detailed account of the site was published in 1995 (S1).

RECORDED EVENTS

May/June 1979. Fieldwalking.
Found by [1] on field surface:
Mesolithic flint cores and blades etc.
Identified and compiled by W. Milligan (NCM), August 1980. Information from (S2).

1978-1980. Fieldwalking.
Fieldwalking by [1]:
Large assemblage of Mesolithic worked flints including 1 pick, 10 backed points, 250 blades/segment, 600 flakes, 30 cores, 2 ?punches, 1 saw and 30 scrapers.
Identified and compiled by A. J. Lawson (NAU), 10 September 1980.

The above two entries were initially thought to refer to two separate sites, being marked as such on the finder’s map. The site was however visited by J. J. Wymer (NAU) in November 1983 who confirmed that both referred to the same site at TG 1276 0621.
Information from (S2). These discoveries were noted in (S3).
The mapped extent of this record has been corrected to better reflect the location recorded by Wymer (previously a polygon centred TG 1279 0616).
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 11 November 2014.

19 March 1984. Evaluation.
Trial excavation by J. J. Wymer. Four metre squares dug within area of previously identified flint concentration. Undisturbed Mesolithic flint industry found in silty, yellow sand immediately below plough soil to depth of 45-50cm below surface. Very prolific in one particular square.
Compiled by J. J. Wymer (NAU), 27 October 1984. Information from (S2). See also (S1).
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 11 November 2014.

1985. Fieldwalking.
7 Mesolithic flint flakes found on other side of hedge, extending site into NHER 15288.
Information from (S1).
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 11 November 2014.

Pre 13 May 1986. Fieldwalking.
Recovered by [1]:
Additional Mesolithic flints and 1 Neolithic flint scraper.
Identified by J. J. Wymer (NAU) and compiled by W. Milligan (NCM), 13 May 1986. Information from (S2).
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 11 November 2014.

1986-1987. Excavation.
In 1986 the decision was taken to excavate to retrieve the Mesolithic flint assemblage, before it could be destroyed by deeper ploughing. This was the first controlled excavation of such an industry in the county. The work was directed by J. J. Wymer and undertaken with the assistance of an M.S.C team of diggers. The excavated area measured 11m x 10m and was divided into individually numbered metre squares, each of which were hand-dug and the soil sieved to recover smaller flints. The base of the subsoil was very irregular, with various linear depressions and hollows (mostly probably rabbit burrows). The presence of finds such as pottery fragments, brick, tile and glass suggested this disturbance was relatively recent. The site was also crossed by an infilled ditch of possible medieval date.

THE MESOLITHIC ASSEMBLAGE

A total of 32417 worked flints were recovered from the subsoil and a further 5369 from the plough soil (the latter total including the previously recovered surface finds). No bones were recovered. The flints included 320 microliths, 333 scrapers, 223 retouched pieces, 34 burins, 2 tranchet axeheads, 20 core tool fragments, 20,826 flakes/flake fragments, 14,767 blades/blade segments, 624 core trimmings, 563 cores, 44 microburins, 19 axe-sharpening flakes, 16 burin spalls and large number of shatter pieces and spalls. Blades were clearly the focus of the industry with blade cores forming 91% of the cores found and blades/blade fragments forming 39% of all artefacts recovered. All of the microliths can be classified as obliquely blunted points and all categories of substantially complete microliths had a similar size range and mean length (the overall mean length of the assemblage being 45mm and the range 28-67mm). The comparatively small number of microburins and the presence of two microblades with microlithic retouch but no evidence for microburin technique suggests that some microliths were prepared directly from microblades. The other retouched pieces included rounded scrapers, end scrapers, a truncated blade, notched and serrated blades and other miscellaneous retouched blades and flakes.

The restricted extent of this flint scatter makes it more likely that it was the result of a single episode of activity, rather than a palimpsest of individual scatters from intermittent visits to the site. It is possible that the site was used as a temporary camp by itinerant hunters, occupied for perhaps a few days rather than weeks. Its location is unusual, lying on the relatively high ground on the central Norfolk Till Plain, although it was noted that the Till is dissected in this area and the soil comparatively light. Unfortunately the lack of any surviving organic material makes it impossible to assess the environment at the time of this occupation. Typologically the assemblage is consistent with an Early Mesolithic date and would appear to be identical to that recovered at the prolific site on Kelling Heath (NHER 6246). In order to help establish the date of the Mesolithic activity a thermoluminescence date was obtained from a burnt flint core. This gave a date of 7.23 +/- 0.97 ka BP; well within the range of the Mesolithic period, but later than the dates obtained for similar Early Mesolithic assemblages elsewhere (generally c. 8000-7000 BC). Although none of the excavated features were thought to be Mesolithic it was noted that there were quite sudden differences in the number of flints recovered from some adjacent squares. It is possible that this indicates the position of intervening barriers such as windbreaks or a dwelling. The less numerous more dispersed concentration around one square may represent a knapping spot. The source of the flint used is not entirely clear, although the very high numbers of unutilised but suitable blades and flakes suggests an ample and unrestricted supply.

For full details see (S1), in which many of the flints are illustrated. A brief interim report had previously been issued (S4) and the work was also noted in (S5) and (S6). One of the tranchet axeheads recovered during surface collection is noted in (S7).
All of the excavated material (and probably some or all of the earlier finds) was donated to the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 1999.1.32.11).

Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 17 November 2014.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • LITHIC WORKING SITE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • OPEN SITE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • DITCH (Medieval - 1066 AD? to 1539 AD?)
  • FINDSPOT (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • BLADE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BLADE CORE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BURIN (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BURIN SPALL (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • CORE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • CORE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • CRESTED BLADE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • DEBITAGE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • END SCRAPER (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FLAKED AXEHEAD (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • HOLLOW SCRAPER (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • MICROBURIN (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • MICROLITH (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • NOTCHED BLADE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • RETOUCHED BLADE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • RETOUCHED FLAKE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • SERRATED BLADE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • TRANCHET AXEHEAD (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • TRANCHET FLAKE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • BRICK (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • TILE (Medieval to Post Medieval - 1066 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TG1206 P-U.
---Map: Finder's Map..
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Photograph: EGY, EGZ.
<S1>Article in Serial: Wymer, J. J. and Robins, P. A. 1995. A Mesolithic Site at Great Melton. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLII Pt II pp 125-147.
<S2>Archive: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
<S3>Article in Serial: 1982. Archaeological Discoveries for 1980. CBA Group VI Bulletin. No 27 pp 21-35. p 31.
<S4>Article in Serial: Robins, P. The Great Melton Mesolithic Site. NARG News. No 51 pp 6-11.
<S5>Article in Serial: 1987. Archaeological Discoveries for 1986. CBA Group VI Bulletin. No 32 pp 42-79. p 56.
<S6>Article in Serial: 1988. Archaeological Discoveries for 1987. CBA Group VI Bulletin. No 33 pp 30-56. p 48.
<S7>Archive: R. Jacobi. -. Jacobi Archive. 10249.

Related records - none

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