PEBBLE CULTURE IN NORTH EAST SCOTLAND
A number of flint artefacts have been collected from two adjacent sites in the Buchan area of North East Scotland. The first site is a solifluction deposit derived from glacial till in a quarry face at Stoneyhill farm ( NJ 08,41). The second site is on North Aldie farm (NJ 072,409), a short distance away on the other side of the Laeca burn and is composed of glacial melt water gravels. Because of the simple nature of the working of these flints it is suspected that they are artefacts of great antiquity.
The quarry at Stoneyhill farm is being worked for granite and shows the following section:- At the top is 10 - 15 cm of organic matter that is underlain by 20 cm of a bleached horizon that shows some signs of gleying due to the presence of a subjacent iron pan. Then follows up two metres of a solifluction deposit derived from glacial till, then the insitu till followed by weathered granite which grades, gradually, into fresh granite. The solifluction deposit and insitu till has been hardened due to being permafrost during the Weichsellian glaciation. It is within this "Indurated layer", as it is known in Scotland, or "Fragipan", as it is Internationally known, that the flint artefacts have been found. Thus the flints have been incorporated in the glacial drift, soliflucted down the slope and then incorporated in permafrost.
The gravels on North Aldie farm form a terrace on the South side of the burn which probably formed a major channel for glacial melt waters. The lower part of this profile, from which the artefacts have been extracted, was also permafrost during the Wechsellian glaciation.
Although worked flints were also found above the relic permafrost only those found within this horizon were collected because it was felt that there would be little contamination from Holocene flint working, such as the Mesolithic or Neolithic which are quite common in this part of Scotland.
A total of over 2,000 flint fragments have been collected from these two sites of which about 100 seem to have been natural fragments that were used and/or worked in a number of different ways. Some of these flints exhibit a pattern of fracturing which appears to form the initial stage of a process and about 10 seem to be finished products.
Generally these artefacts seem to fall into the following eight classes:
- Hammer stones
- Carbon impregnated flints
- Reddened flints
- Flints showing a repeated pattern of fracture
- Heart stones
- Carved stones
1. Cutters. For the most part the cutters seem to have been worked since they all have the same basic characteristics. They were either natural discoid flakes that were chipped to produce one straight edge or, they were struck off a platform to give one straight or slightly concave edge and one rounded edge. The examples show characteristic chipping of the rounded edges. A very distinctive feature is that in all cases the straight or slightly concave edges do not show any sign of chipping, thus there is the situation that one edge is chipped and the other is not. It would therefore seem that they have been humanly produced by a very simple working suggesting a very early stage in the development of knapping techniques.
2. Hammer stones. One particularly good example of a hammer stone was discovered in the gravel. It is very heavily chipped at one end as a result of repeated heavy impact blows at one point. It seems improbable that this could have been produced naturally since there are no known natural processes which could repeatedly and preferentially impact one end of the boulder with such force.
3. Carbon impregnated flints. A small number of flints have a thin, < 1mm, black impregnated surface which changes colour to dark reddish grey when heated to 600 deg.C. Thus the impregnating material is Carbon since no other substance behaves in this manner. It is probable that this could have taken place naturally as the result of a forest fire but it is suggested that these flints formed the part of a hearth and that animal fluids falling on them were carbonised and fused into the flint.
4. Reddened flints. A large number of the flint fragments are reddened, to a greater or lesser extent. In many cases the reddening forms a thin layer just beneath the cortex while, in a small number of others, the whole of the flint has been reddened. It is suggested that the reddening has been produced by the oxidation of the very small amounts of iron in the flints when they were in a fire, since this can be easily reproduced in the laboratory. In addition the fractures of these flints are typically those of fire fracture.
5. Flints showing a repeated pattern of fracture. A cluster of flints were excavated at one of the sites at Stoneyhill farm which included a number apparently fractured by the same technique. These pebbles exhibit a smooth angular face, generally inclined to a rougher face at an angle which varies between 45 deg. and 60 deg. The pebbles are all about 3cm to 5cm at their largest dimension. A fossil Heart Urchin was found at another Stoneyhill site which conforms to the same pattern.
6. Heart stones. Possibly the most distinctive feature of these two sites, ( Stoneyhill and North Aldie), is the presence of what might be called heart-stones found at North Aldie. These are roughly heart shaped flints that occur naturally and have been worked in a very specific manner. The right lobe is higher than the left, rarely is the left lobe higher. The backs of these flints are more or less flat while the fronts are slightly domed. However, the most distinctive feature is the area between the lobes. In most cases it has been chipped from the back and then the chip marks have been partially or completely removed by polishing; it is inconceivable that this could be a natural process. The area between the lobes is the most inaccessible yet, in most cases, there are clear chip marks while there are none on the rest of the flint. Furthermore the degree of polish is considerably greater than could be achieved by natural processes but could easily produced by rubbing with bone and water as will be discussed below. It is suggested that the shape of these heart stones is mainly natural since some occur which show none of the extra features described above. For some, unknown, reason they have been systematically collected, chipped, polished and probably flattened on one side.
7. Carved flint. The most spectacular find is a flint, carved to give a face. The two eyes are clearly calcareous fossils which have dissolved to leave two cavities while the nose and mouth have been produced by carving.. This may seem to be an extremely difficult process since there were metal tools but in reality it is quite simple to work flint with another piece of flint. The heart stones and the carved stone seem to be the first recorded occurrence of these human artefacts in Scotland. The type of working and polishing indicates a class of technology that has so far not been recognised. The major problem with these artefacts is attempting to ascribe an age. Since they are found in glacial drift, solifluction deposits and melt water gravels from the drift they have to be at least pre-Weischellian and since there is no, unequivocal, evidence for Weischellian glaciation in the Buchan area of North-east Scotland they are most probably pre............. . Which makes them in excess of 250,000 years and probably contemporary with Boxgrove man or earlier (Ref..........) since his worked flints seem to represent a higher degree of sophistication.
Dr. E. A. Fitzpatrick Ph.D.
Retired Senior Lecturer
University of Aberdeen
1994 is an important year for Palaeolithic Scotland as it was then that the two artefacts shown above were found. They lay within 1/4 of a mile of one another on the Moss of Cruden but on completely different terrain.
Although they were found to be separated by only a small dimension in space, they are separated in time by thousands of years!
The Core, on the left, is from a valley and was found amongst weathered red granite close to an isolated cromlech where some time in the past much fluvial activity had taken place. The lithic on the right I found on the crest of the hill of Longhaven near where a ditch had been recently dug for farming reasons. The ditch revealed a brilliantly white, sandy sub terrain which marched with the Buchan flint deposits.
When the Lithic was shown to one of today’s internationally respected Archaeologists, I was advised that the groove on its flank was, more likely than not, evidence of the intention of causing a Spark by repeated striking along the groove. He also advised that it had been lying in a desert for a few hundred or so years after the groove had been made due to the fact that the obverse of the grooved face has been obviously sand blasted! (see later images).
The finding of these two lithics and the subsequent research and field effort which they engendered resulted in the discovery of the "Weewindae Hidden Soil Horizon" as predicted by Dr. E A Fitzpatrick and its evidence of Early Palaeolithic habitation in Scotland.
Reading Dr. Ken Oakley’s works and publications are inspirational. His "Man the Tool-Maker" contains a provisional but none the less brilliant and revealing chart of:- "The Cultural Traditions of Early Man".
(Dr. K.P. Oakley F.B.A provided scientifically derived evidence which exposed the myth, aka, "Piltdown Man").
These two lithics postdate material retrieved from the Hidden Soil Horizon.
The core, which has never been denied by any professional Archaeologist (except one) as being anything but a core; is pretty well certain to be, at the latest, Mousterian.
The "Sparker"? well it is certainly much older!