Sunday 20 December 2009

Pot Boilers

Occasionally when you are walking through a field, you come across flints that have been in a fire - they have a characteristic light blue-grey colour and their surface is crazed like the glaze on old plates.

The usual explanation for these flints is that they are "pot boilers" - stones placed into the fire to heat up and then transferred to a pot of water to boil it.  On long winter evenings at Archaeological Society meetings in Victorian times, members would argue endlessly about whether this or that newly-found rock could be a pot boiler - this may be one of the sources for the phrase's modern idiomatic meaning of endless and pointless rumination about a subject of little or no real merit.

No doubt this is one way to heat water, though not a very efficient one.  But I wonder if the the many burned flints could represent some other activity?  It has been seriously suggested that they might be the remain of a prehistoric saua bath!  Heating flints can certainly alter their brittle qualities as a material so perhaps they wre experiments at "annealing" the stone.

Saturday 19 December 2009

My latest find - a Neolithic arrowhead

In the parts of Hampshire and West Sussex that I visit most often, I usually find Mesolithic flints - lots of them!  Rarely, I find Paleolithic implements.  Now, I've found a Neolithic arrow head to add to my finds (pictured below).

 It's probably an isolated later flint rather than evidence of settlement, but it's nice to know that the area where I live has been occupied on and off for tens of thousands of years.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Those dreadful Stone Age people

You know those Stone Age people we keep hearing about? The really thick ones whose language is a series of grunts, and who carry a club with which to hit women over the head and drag them back to their cave? The ones who keep inventing the square wheel in the cartoons?

This is a picture of the kind of thing they were making as arrow heads about 8,000 years ago, with nothing more to work with than pieces of flint and their bare hands.

Were they not truly a most remarkable people?

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Britain's Drowned World - Time Team Special

Did you catch the truly fabulous Time Team Special "Britain's Drowned World" on Channel 4 at the weekend?  Don't worry if you didn't because you can watch in online at

It gives a fascinating and detailed picture of the Mesolithic period in Britain and what happened as the climate warmed, the glaciers melted and the land connecting Britain to the continent was inundated.  Lots of detail on implements and fossil finds.  Specially fascinating was the undersea geomagnetic survey of the north sea which showed the outlines of the major river that was once the Thames and Rhine linked.

Do catch it if you can.