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Grooved Ware

17 July 2010

At www.physorg.com/print198495505.html there is a story on the discovery of a hand sized piece of rock found in a quarry near the village of Over in Cambridgeshire. It date backs to the Late Neolithic period, it has been suggested, as it has a pair of concentric circles etched onto the surface, a motif typically associated with Grooved Ware art/design. The find is significant as no such rock art, for obvious reasons, has ever been found previously in eastern England. However, a sandstone plaque from a Grooved Ware site in Leicestershire has yielded a similar kind of design – and this is not all that far away. Outcrops of stone can occur anywhere – it’s just a matter of geology (erosion), and Leicestershire has some fine stone outcrops, particularly in the Charnwood region. The article continues by saying that Grooved Ware culture was more widespread than thought – and may even have covered the whole of Britain. This appears to contradict once held ideas that it represented ‘an elite’ or the movements of single (or grops) of tribes. What is not considered is that it might represent something tangible, witnessed by people in general over a large geographical area (in the sky, for example), and perhaps over time became a stylised symbol in the following epoch, which in this case is the Late Neolithic. Such a symbol might have transcended tribal boundaries and rivalries, as the symbol is found as far north as the Orkneys, south to Wiltshire and Dorset.

The Over Stone, as it has now being dubbed, was found in a quarry spoil heap, discarded by quarry workers. Archaeologists were actually investigating evidence of Late Neolithic dwellings along what was an old channel of the Ouse. They said that at the time the Ouse formed huge S bends as it meandered through the low lying Cambridgeshire countryside. It is thought the Ouse and its tributaries were subject to seasonal flooding and settlements sprang up on small patches of higher ground, like islands in the middle of wetlands. It is difficult to make out if this is established by facts on the ground or by projection backwards of the known situation in the Fens before they were drained in the Middle Ages. In the Late Neolithic period the climate may well have been drier – and the Fens may not have been such a disadvantage to settlement as they were during later, wetter periods. In addition, the coastline was probably much further to the north than it is now – even during the Roman period it is known what is now the Wash (the bite out of eastern England) was much narrower, and we are talking about the situation two thousand years previous to that. We shall have to await further details.

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