Record Details

NHER Number:1873
Type of record:Find Spot
Name:Mesolithic and Upper Palaeolithic or Neolithic worked flints and Pleistocene beach deposits

Summary

During the 1930 a Pleistocene 'raised beach' deposit was identified on the coast between Stiffkey and Morston. This deposit was overlain by a glacially-deposited brown boulder clay of a type similar to material observed at Hunstanton and elsewhere on the Norfolk coast. During the investigation of this site the soil overlying the boulder clay was found to contain many unpatinated Mesolithic flints, including blades, cores and at least one microlith. These unpatinated flints were recovered both in situ from the coastal cliff and on the surface of the adjacent fields. Around the same time a markedly different assemblage of patinated and iron-stained flints was recovered further inland, close to the River Stiffkey. These flints were initially thought to be Upper Palaeolithic material that predated the deposition of the boulder clay, although it was subsequently suggested that they are probably Neolithic or later. At least two other Neolithic implements are known to have been recovered on or near this site.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TF 9909 4405
Map Sheet:TF94SE
Parish:MORSTON, NORTH NORFOLK, NORFOLK

Full description

This record details two flints assemblages recovered during the investigation of a Pleistocene 'raised beach' deposit that was discovered on the coast at Morston during the 1930s. The first was predominantly Mesolithic and was found in the vicinity of the coast, whilst the second - which is of a less certain date - was found approximately 200m to the south. Although the latter was previously recorded separately (NHER 1874) it is not known exactly where either assemblage was recovered and it is clear that the Mesolithic material was also recovered from the arable fields adjacent to the coast [1].

INITIAL DISCOVERIES

In 1931 J. D. Solomon described an "...old shingle beach, some three miles in length..." that he had identified between Morston and Stiffkey (S1). This deposit was overlain by a brown boulder clay, which Solomon noted was similar to the boulder clay deposits that had produced Upper Palaeolithic objects in Hunstanton and elsewhere. The beach deposit itself was described as "…banked against esker gravel and other debris belonging to the Contorted Drift of the area", suggesting "…the boulder clay belongs to an even later glaciation than the [Contorted Drift]" (S1). This 'beach' deposit was subject to further discussion by Solomon (S2) and was described in (S3) as resulting from a transgression of the Eem Sea during the Wurm I/II interstadial.

The soil overlying the brown boulder clay was found to contain Mesolithic "…flakes and implements…of grey flint and practically unpatinated". These did not occur in the boulder clay itself but were "found in considerable quantity above it" (S1). These "fresh unpatinated" Mesolithic flints were described by J. E. Sainty as having been found both "…in the section above the purple boulder clay [and] scattered on the arable" (S4). It appears that much of this material had been recovered by Sainty himself, as he subsequently described how in 1931 he had found "implements of Kelling type" on the surface whilst visiting the "raised beach" with Solomon (S5). Information from (S6). This assemblage is described by (S7) as Tardenoisian.

A second distinct assemblage of worked flints (previously recorded as NHER 1874) was discovered by Solomon "on a field some 200 yards [180m] south of the beach, at the point where it is cut through by the River Stiffkey" (S1). These flints included numerous cores and rough flakes, with end-scrapers the only recognisable tool type present. It was noted that, unlike the Mesolithic material, most of these pieces were "made of a dark grey flint which has patinated either patinated bluish or white; a few, however, are of a lighter flint which has patinated only slightly" (S1). Solomon suggested that although these flints were "…certainly not earlier than Upper Palaeolithic" they may represent an "early Aurignacian culture", that predated the boulder clay. Fourteen of these flints are illustrated in (S1), including what are described as scrapers, flakes with secondary working, a 'cores implement', a 'chopper' and a 'point'. Although Sainty suggested that the markedly different condition of the two Morston assemblages supported a pre-Mesolithic date for Solomon's flints, he nevertheless noted that "…amongst these patinated specimens occurred a fragment of a polished axe of late type" (S4). It is suggested by (S8) that the unpatinated material was Neolithic or later and a note on an early NCM map makes it clear that R. R. Clarke regarded most, if not all, of these flints as probably Neolithic.

SUBSEQUENT INVESTIGATIONS AND DISCUSSION

The beach deposits at Morston were the subject of a visit by the Geologists' Association in August 1958 and were discussed in a subsequent report (S9).

See (S10) and (S11) for more recent discussions of the Pleistocene beach at Morston, the latter of which proposes a Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 7–6 transition date for this deposit.

SURVIVING ARTEFACTS

Several museum collections include worked flints that were probably recovered at this site, although there is a certain amount of disagreement between the principal sources as to the exact locations and nature of this material. As is common for material of this age there is also, in some cases at least, uncertainty as to whether some objects had passed through multiple hands prior to their donation.

The NCM hold a geometric Mesolithic microlith that is recorded as being from the "Mesolithic site over Hunstanton boulder clay" - almost certainly a reference to this site. This is part of the H. Apling Collection and may be one of the objects that was originally part of Sainty's collection.

According to (S12) J. E. Sainty's personal collection included a number of Mesolithic flints from this site ("on raised beach"); listed as 4 cores, 2 blades/flakes and 4 scrapers. These finds appear to be a collection subsequently recorded in (S13) as having been donated to the Norwich Castle Museum ("PMJ ex J. E. Sainty Collection"), which are listed as comprising 4 cores, 2 blades and 1 scraper. These do not appear in the museum's current accession records and the it is unclear to who or what "PMJ" refers.

The Norwich Castle Museum holds two other objects that are recorded as having been found at "Solomon's site". The first is part of the Cox-Barclay Collection and is recorded by (S14) as a Neolithic flaked flint axe. The second is a "Mesolithic implement" that was donated by A. Q. Watson in 1953. This is described by (S6) as a "Thames pick", but is not listed in either (S12) or (S13).

The Norwich Castle Museum also hold at least two flint objects that were donated by J. E. Sainty in 1959 (NWHCM : 1959.56). These finds (recorded under NHER 6122) are described in the museum's records as a Neolithic polished flint axehead fragment and a flint pick. Although no precise provenance is recorded they were probably recovered on or near this site. The 'pick' is recorded in R. Jacobi's archive (S13) as a plano-convex butt fragment of a "Norfolk type adze", so is potentially Mesolithic. The polished axehead fragment may be one that is recorded as having been found by Sainty a little to the south of this site (NHER 1875). According to (S13) this collection also includes a microlith that was recovered at this site, although this is not listed by any other source, suggesting that this may actually be a reference to the microlith donated by Apling (which is not listed in Jacobi's archive).

A note added to (S6) by E. Rose (NAU) records that the British Museum has "Meso type cores of unusual size" that may be from this site. These are Upper Palaeolithic blade cores in the Warren Collection, the provenance of which is unknown. See NHER 6122 for further details.

A number of Mesolithic flints (7 cores and 5 blade/flakes) from Morston are recorded by (S12) as being held by the Pitt-Rivers Museum (Oxford) (see NHER 6122). Although listed as unprovenanced these finds are recorded by (S15) as being from this site. It should however be noted that although Jacobi (S13) recorded finds from this site in the Pitt-Rivers Museum, the artefact types and quantities do not tally with those given in (S12). Jacobi recorded two assemblages, both of which were unregistered and found by D. Baden-Powell (who taught geology and Palaeolithic archaeology at Oxford). The first collection appears to have been recovered during the visit by the Geologists' Association in August 1958 (S9) and is listed as comprising 3 blade fragments, 1 blade core and an unspecified number of ?Neolithic pieces. The second collection is marked (in what is believed to be Baden-Powell's handwriting) as being from the "Hessle Boulder Clay" at Morston and includes 3 Late Mesolithic/Early Neolithic flakes, 4 blades and a possible burin.

Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 13 July 2014.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Upper Palaeolithic - 40000 BC? to 10001 BC?)
  • FINDSPOT (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Late Mesolithic to Early Neolithic - 7000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)

Associated Finds

  • CHOPPER? (Upper Palaeolithic to Late Neolithic - 40000 BC? to 2351 BC?)
  • CORE? (Upper Palaeolithic to Late Neolithic - 40000 BC? to 2351 BC?)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT? (Upper Palaeolithic to Late Neolithic - 40000 BC? to 2351 BC?)
  • POINT? (Upper Palaeolithic to Late Neolithic - 40000 BC? to 2351 BC?)
  • RETOUCHED FLAKE (Upper Palaeolithic to Late Neolithic - 40000 BC? to 2351 BC?)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Upper Palaeolithic to Late Neolithic - 40000 BC? to 2351 BC?)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL)? (Upper Palaeolithic to Late Neolithic - 40000 BC? to 2351 BC?)
  • BLADE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BLADE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC? to 4001 BC?)
  • BLADE CORE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC? to 4001 BC?)
  • CORE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • MICROLITH (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • PICK? (Mesolithic - 10000 BC? to 4001 BC?)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BLADE (Late Mesolithic to Early Neolithic - 7000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • BURIN? (Late Mesolithic to Early Neolithic - 7000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Late Mesolithic to Early Neolithic - 7000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • FLAKED AXEHEAD (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Neolithic - 4000 BC? to 2351 BC?)
  • POLISHED AXEHEAD (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Secondary File: Secondary file.
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Upper Palaeolithic.
<S1>Article in Serial: Solomon, J. D. 1931. Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites at Morston, Norfolk. MAN. Vol XXXI December pp 275-278.
<S2>Article in Serial: Solomon, J. D. 1932. The glacial succession on the North Norfolk Coast. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association. Vol 43 Pt 3 pp 241-271.
<S3>Article in Serial: Lacaille, A. D. 1946. The Northward March of Palaeolithic man in Britain. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association. Vol 57 Pt 2 pp 57-81. p 78.
<S4>Article in Monograph: Sainty, J. E. 1935. Norfolk Prehistory. Report of the Annual Meeting, 1935. Norwich, September 4-11. British Association for the Advancement of Science. Appendix pp 60-71.
<S5>Article in Serial: Sainty, J. E. 1945. Mesolithic Sites in Norfolk. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXVIII Pt IV pp 234-237. p 237.
<S6>Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Mesolithic.
<S7>Archive: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards.
<S8>Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Neolithic. Morston.
<S9>Article in Serial: Baden-Powell, D. F. W. and West, R. G. 1960. Summer Field Meeting in East Anglia: 14–24 August 1958. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association. Vol 71 Pt 1 pp 61-80. pp 77-78.
<S10>Article in Serial: Gale, S. J. et al. 1988. The Middle and Upper Quaternary deposits at Morston, north Norfolk, U.K. Geological Magazine. Vol 125 No 5.
<S11>Article in Serial: Hoare, P. et al.. 2009. Marine Isotope Stage 7–6 transition age for beach sediments at Morston, north Norfolk, UK: implications for Pleistocene chronology, stratigraphy and tectonics. Journal of Quaternary Science. Vol 24 No 4 pp 311-316.
<S12>Monograph: Wymer, J. J. and Bonsall, C. J. (eds). 1977. Gazetteer of Mesolithic Sites in England and Wales with a Gazetteer of Upper Palaeolithic Sites in England and Wales. Council for British Archaeology Research Report. No. 20.
<S13>Archive: R. Jacobi. -. Jacobi Archive. 69; 70; 71; 221.
<S14>Thesis: Healy, F.. 1978. The Neolithic in Norfolk. p 490.
<S15>Archive: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.

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