Mega Flints

19 Jan 2018

In the news section (written by Mike Pitts) of British Archaeology magazine (January 2018) we have the discovery of a big piece of flint at Avebury (at a farm) that is one of four described as mega flints (by the archaeologists). One image shows a flint in the lap of a male that is almost as big as his torso. It is basically a core that has been used for flint flakes - but still has lots of possibilities as the material to make lots more stone tools. Its size may indicate it was at one time valued - and may even have been at one time a heirloom. That is not as it ended up of course - rudely discarded as metallurgy had superseded flint knapping. Three other large flint cores are known. One of them was given to John Lord, archaeologist and skilled flintknapper, by a farmer who had been using it as a doorstop. Lord, and Phil Harding (of Time Team fame), are convinced these cores date from around 2500BC (2300BC in old money). This was at the end of the Neolithic stone using era - although peasant farmers no doubt continued to use flint tools for years afterward as metal was bling and attracted the elite. All the four cores originally came from the Turonian stage of the Chalk formation - the base of the Upper Chalk. This is quite near the surface in Kent and Norfolk (but deep in the chalk rock in most other locations). It is especially close to the surface in what is known as the Brecklands in East Anglia. Flint was mined here in the Neolithic (at Grimes Graves for example). The latest core came from West Kennet farm at Avebury, found under a hedge where it had been lobbed as it would have been a ploughing hazard. All four large cores are fan shaped and feature alternate flaking. They were probably dressed with heavy but soft touch stone hammers, indicating their value as an object rather than its practicality. Lord and Harding's article is published in the Antiquaries Journal (2017) - see also https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antiquaries-journal/article/thou... ... and https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003581517000026