Record Details

NHER Number:8992
Type of record:Monument
Name:Probable Mesolithic occupation site on edge of Hockham Mere

Summary

A significant number of Mesolithic worked flints have been recovered this site on Spong Heath, an area of land that once lay on the eastern edge of Hockham Mere (the largest of the Breckland meres until it was drained in 1795). The site was first discovered in 1922, although the flint assemblage recovered was described as Early Neolithic; the Mesolithic not being a recognised period at this time. It is however clear from the published descriptions and illustrations that a range of diagnostic Mesolithic tool types were present, including several microliths and a petit tranchet transverse arrowhead. Further Mesolithic flints were recovered from this area in 1990, when access was provided by tree felling. Three discrete clusters of flints were identified, at least one of which is likely to have been on the site of the earlier discoveries. The finds from sites such as this, coupled with charcoal evidence recovered from the former lake sediments, strongly suggest there was occupation along the margins of Hockham Mere during the Mesolithic.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TL 942 937
Map Sheet:TL99SW
Parish:HOCKHAM, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

A significant Mesolithic site on Spong Heath. This land once lay on the edge of Hockham Mere; the largest of the Breckland Meres (lakes), before it was drained in 1795 (S1). See (S2) for an early discussion of Hockham Mere. In recent years the former lake sediments at Hockham have proven to be a valuable source of palaeoenvironmental information.

June 1922. Stray Finds.
Small number of flint flakes found on Spong Heath by W. G. Clarke. Information from (S3).
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 18 April 2013 and 11 August 2014.

August 1922. Fieldwalking.
Thorough examination of site by W. G. Clarke and H. H. Halls (which was Clarke's Site 51). Area heathland at this time, with finds being recovered principally from molehills and rabbit holes. More than 200 worked flints were recovered and these finds were the subject of a short published article the following year (S3). The assemblage was ascribed an Early Neolithic date, although most, if not all, of these flints are now thought to be Mesolithic - a period that was not distinguised at the time these discoveries were made. This material had though been recognised as a Mesolithic assemblage by 1947 (S4). Information from (S5).

The flints recovered included 228 'flakes', although their description suggests that a significant proportion are what would now be classified as blades. A number of these flakes/blades were retouched and several bore signs of use. The other objects described in (S3) include 19 objects that were probably cores, at least 9 scrapers (various forms), 2 microliths ("pygmies"), 2 leaf-shaped possible knives, 1 burin and 1 petit tranchet transverse arrowhead. One object, described as a blue-patinated blade-scraper was seen as Upper Palaeolithic , although whether this would still be the case is far from certain. This scraper and a number of the other objects (including the microliths and arrowhead) are illustrated in (S3) (see copies in file). The arrowhead is listed as a Mesolithic find in (S6).

Both Halls and Clark donated finds from this site to the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 1924.86.2 and NWHCM : 1926.32.51 respectively), although the exact composition of these collections is somewhat unclear. Halls' finds are however listed by the museum as "Mesolithic flint implements" and Healy (S7) noted that Clarke's finds seem "…mainly Mesolithic in character". However, the only finds from this site listed in (S8) are 2 microliths. These microliths (one of which is in the Halls collection and the other in the Clarke collection) are described in (S9). Jacobi's records also notes the presence of 11 Mesolithic retouched implements. Jacobi's records also note the presence of Mesolithic debitage and a petit tranchet arrowhead in the Clarke collection. It is also noted that the two collections include "button scrapers" and "leaf-shaped implements". Healy (S7) also noted the presence of an Early Neolithic laurel leaf - this is in the Clarke collection and is presumably one of the leaf-shaped implements recorded by Jacobi. Clarke's collection also includes a single Late Upper Palaeolithic blade core, which is listed in (S10) and described in detail in (S9).
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 18 April 2013 and 11 August 2014.

1990. Systematic Fieldwalking. Contexts 2 to 4.
Systematic fieldwalking by J. Wymer (NAU) and P. Robins (NCM) following tree felling and restocking. The areas examined were sufficiently searched to indicate that there is no general scatter of flintwork. The flints found were present in three distinct concentrations - these recorded as Sites A to C (see plan in file). Sites A and B lie on a very slight rise of no more than a metre above the flat area to the west, and may represent the eastern fringe of the old mere when it was at a high water level. It was however noted that the soil is as sandy to the west, although the higher ground may be more gravelly. Site C lies on slightly lower ground to the west of Site B. Most of the knapped flint recovered is grey or black, with non-ocherous cortex. The gravel flint in this location does not appear to have been the raw material used for this industry. It is perhaps notable that a significant number of the flints were found to burnt. These discoveries were reported in (S11). The finds recovered were as follows:

Site A (Context 2, centred on TL 9425 9375):
By far the most productive of the three site with over 450 flints recovered, the majority (286) unmodified flakes. Other types present include 25 cores, over 50 blades, 41 blade segments, 4 scrapers and 1 microlith. A rolled palaeolithic flake was also recovered from close to this site - this is recorded seperately (NHER 28225).

Site B (Context 3, centred on TL 9431 9356):
Over 150 flints, the majority also unmodified flakes. Other types present include 8 cores, 23 blades, 9 nine blade segments, 2 scrapers, and a 1 microburin.

Site C (Context 4, centred on TL 9422 9353):
Despite the apparently good conditions 1 blade and 1 blade fragment were the only flints recovered.

See notes and detailed lists in file.
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 18 April 2013 and 11 August 2014.

11 November 1990. Fieldwalking.
Collection of further material from Site A and Site C by E. Rogers (Forestry Commission). The artefacts recovered are as follows (see file for full lists):

Site A:
78 flints, of which 53 are unmodified flakes. Other types present include 1 core, 6 blades, 2 blade segments and 1 end scraper. 5 pot boilers also recovered.

Site C:
95 flints, of which 54 are unmodified flakes. Other types present include 6 cores, 26 blades, 3 blade segments, 1 fine long obliquely blunted microlith and 1 petit tranchet transverse arrowhead.

These discoveries were reported in (S12). The microlith and the arrowhead are illustrated in (S13).
See notes and detailed lists in file.
Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 18 April 2013 and 11 August 2014.

The flints recovered from the more recent work appear to form an unmixed Mesolithic assemblage, although its precise date is not entirely clear. The blade technology suggests a later Mesolithic date, but there are none of the distinctive microliths of this period, such as geometric forms or rods. The single microlith recovered from Site C is much more typical of earlier Mesolithic industries. The relatively poor quality of the knapping is however indicative of a later Mesolithic date, although this may reflect the unsatisfactory nature of the raw material used. The two petit tranchet arrowheads from this site are however virtually diagnostic of a very late Mesolithic industry, so there was clearly at least some degree of activity during this period. These objects are a rare find in East Anglia (S13). Information from notes in file compiled by J. Wymer.

This site is one of several concentration of Mesolithic flint that have now been identified along the margins of Hockham Mere, suggesting this area saw significant occupation at this time. This assertion is supported by the analysis of microscopic charcoal fragments recovered from the former lake sediments. At Hockham charcoal has been found throughout deposits that have been radiocarbon dated to 7500-3000 BC (S13). Sediments in nearby Quidenham Mere were found to be lacking corresponding concentrations of charcoal (S14), suggesting the fragments at Hockham were from adjacent small fires rather than forest fires (the other potential source of such material and one which would be expected to spread particles over a much greater distance). See also NHERs 15359, 25972 and 50311.

Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 18 April 2013 and 11 August 2014.

Monument Types

  • FINDSPOT (Upper Palaeolithic - 40000 BC to 10001 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • OCCUPATION SITE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • FINDSPOT (Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age - 3000 BC to 1501 BC)

Associated Finds

  • BLADE (Upper Palaeolithic - 40000 BC to 10001 BC)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Upper Palaeolithic - 40000 BC? to 10001 BC?)
  • BLADE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BLADE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BLADE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BLADE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BLADE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BLADE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • BURIN (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • CORE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • CORE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • CORE (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)
  • END SCRAPER (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • FLAKE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Early Mesolithic to Late Neolithic - 10000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Early Mesolithic to Late Neolithic - 10000 BC to 2351 BC)
  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • MICROBURIN (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • MICROLITH (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • MICROLITH (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • MICROLITH (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • MICROLITH (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • POT BOILER (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • POT BOILER (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • RETOUCHED FLAKE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • RETOUCHED FLAKE (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Mesolithic - 10000 BC to 4001 BC)
  • TRANSVERSE ARROWHEAD (Late Mesolithic to Late Neolithic - 7000 BC? to 2351 BC)
  • TRANSVERSE ARROWHEAD (Late Mesolithic to Late Neolithic - 7000 BC? to 2351 BC)
  • LAUREL LEAF (Early Neolithic - 4000 BC to 3001 BC)
  • THUMB NAIL SCRAPER (Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age - 3000 BC? to 1501 BC?)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Archive: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards.
---Archive: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
<S1>Publication: Clarke, W. G. and Clarke, R. R. 1937. In Breckland Wilds. Second Edition.
<S2>Article in Serial: Mosby, J. E. G. 1935. Hockham Mere. Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists Society. Vol XIV pp 61-67.
<S3>Article in Serial: Clark, W. G. 1923. An Early Neolithic Site at Hockham, Norfolk. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia. Vol IV Pt I (for 1922-23) pp 92-95.
<S4>Article in Serial: Sainty, J. E. 1945. Mesolithic Sites in Norfolk. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XXVIII Pt IV pp 234-237. p 236.
<S5>Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Neolithic.
<S6>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. p 65.
<S7>Thesis: Healy, F.. 1978. The Neolithic in Norfolk. p 240.
<S8>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. p 207.
<S9>Archive: R. Jacobi. -. Jacobi Archive. 213; 6933; 10270.
<S10>Article in Serial: Robins, P. and Wymer, J. 2006. Late Upper Palaeolithic (Long Blade) Industries in Norfolk. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLV Pt I pp 86-95. p 94.
<S11>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. (ed.). 1991. Archaeological Finds in Norfolk 1990. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLI Pt II pp 230-239. p 230.
<S12>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. (ed.). 1992. Archaeological Finds in Norfolk 1991. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLI Pt III pp 362-370. p 363.
<S13>Article in Serial: Wymer, J. J. 1991. Mesolithic Occupation around Hockham Mere. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLI Pt II pp 212-213.
<S14>Article in Serial: Bennett, K. D., Simonson, W. D. and Peglar, S. M. 1990. Fire and Man in Post-Glacial Woodlands of Eastern England. Journal of Archaeological Science. Vol 17 pp 635-642.

Related records - none

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