Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A tricky question of conservation ethics

I've often had the good luck to find discarded flint cores when field walking and have quite a collection but I've only very, very rarely seen anything that looked like it might be a hammerstone, and even then the evidence is usually ambiguous.  But this week I picked up the tool pictured and I can't see what else it could be other than some form of purpose designed hammer.

It's a good weight, easy to handle, and the point has been crushed by hundreds of small blows until blunt. I wonder if it might have been intended to be re-sharpened once it became blunt, unlike a pebble which has to be thrown away. (It's almost certainly Mesolithic, by the way.)

Here's my tricky question.  I'm naturally dying to try it out to test my theory.  I could try it on a fresh piece of flint, properly prepared.  Or - even more outrageous - I could try it on one of the discarded Mesolithic cores I've found (like the one pictured here.)  Should I, or shouldn't I? 

The answer is that I'm going to duck the question entirely for the time being on practical grounds - I don't have enough skill to trust myself to use either skillfully.  Maybe one day when I've got better at it?   :-)



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