Howburn Excavation Update Monday 13 July 2009

Rab and daughter Jennifer show their all round retouched long scraper
Rab and daughter Jennifer show off their all round retouched long scraper.

We are down to our final few weeks and…

The progress being made is fantastic, work at the original Trench is now complete with the final tally of probably five tanged points being found there, along with a large number of other tools mainly being long, end scrapers. Some evidence of actual knapping comes in the form of cores and a small quantity of tiny debitage. The trench is now re-instated and while we think we have found the main concentration of lithics in that area, clearly there are many still undiscovered pieces around it.

Janet Ward with one of the numerous long end scrapers found at the site
Janet Ward with her long, end scraper find. One of many found so far.

An interesting aspect of the work is that flint has migrated down into the till, sometimes up to 300mm below the plough soil. Normally of course there would be no archaeological interest below the ‘natural’; however what seems to have happened is that during the Loch Lomond Re-Advance period, and after the flint was left, the constant freezing and thawing of the ground allowed the lithics to work their way down. This process is cryoturbation (the action of freezing) and works in a similar way to bioturbation where worms, root systems and other burrowing animals can mix up soils and sub soils.

We reported finding ‘micro charcoal’ which we got a bit excited about, however the material may actually prove to be natural manganese deposits which can look very similar to charcoal.

Nevertheless, work on our Trench 2 beside the road has resumed with some very nice tools and flakes being found, including yet another tang point, another Neolithic leaf arrow head and a microlith. There cannot be many places where Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic artefacts can be found so casually on the same day.

A tanged point and scraper from the same grid.
A tanged point and scraper from the same grid.

We now have a large assemblage of lithic from the two trenches and the decision has been made to wind down the project. We are in no doubt we have proved the nature of the site and have succeeded in all of our aims and objectives. It is most likely that the field work will be completed by the beginning of August, so perhaps there will be another three weekend’s work to do.