Flint flakes and artefacts are ubiqitous throughout Britain, and it is not surprising to find them if an area of ground is studied closely.  Of more interest are groups of flakes, indicating flint-knapping activity, as most flakes are not finished tools, but the by-products of tool-making, known as debitage. In the Gilsland area these finds remind us that prehistoric peoples were present despite the lack of more obvious monuments.


Group of Flint Flakes

Site: Greengate Well, Northumberland (field walking) 23 July 2010

Find Nos.:  (clockwise) GW020, GW021, GW019

Co-ordinates: N 55.00173 W 2.52425 (NY66566758)

Notes: These three flakes were found close together, suggesting that there may have been some knapping activity at this site.

Comments:  "These three flakes are all of mottled grey flint. Although it is difficult to source types of flint, especially without the presence of surface cortex, the most likely source is the east coast of Yorkshire, where it occurs in both fresh outcrops of chalk and glacial till. All of the pieces show evidence for previous removals but no further working, and can therefore be classed as debitage. GW019 is especially interesting as it is waste from microblade technology which was prevalent throughout the Mesolithic period." (Dave Jackson, North Pennines Archaeology Ltd)

Flake of Radiolarian Chert

chert flake whiteside farm

Site: Whiteside Farm, Northumberland (field walking), 3 July 2010

Find No.:  WS003

Co-ordinates: N 55.01822 W 2.47069 (NY70006940)

Notes: The grey material is radiolarian chert, the closest source is southern Scotland.

Comments:  "This flake of chert is too large and irregular to be a thumbnail scraper and it lacks the peripheral retouch which is common on these types of tools. However, it is definitely a tool. Note the retouched notch at the distal end. Whilst it could be argued that this piece is a horned-scraper, common throughout the later Bronze Age, the notch is quite narrow and it lacks any retouch around the lateral margins. It is probably more accurate to classify the piece as a notched flake. Notched flakes are a relatively common occurrence within assemblages from the Mesolithic through to the later Bronze Age and were probably used as expedient tools. This particular example most closely resembles other examples of notched flakes from the later Bronze Age, which were generally produced on short, stubby hard-hammer flakes with very little additional retouch other than that within the notched area." (Dave Jackson, North Pennines Archaeology Ltd)

Flint / Chert Flakes

chert flakes willimoteswick farm

Site: Willimoteswick Farm, Northumberland (field walking), 28 May 2011

Find Nos.:  WM001 (L), WM002 (R)

Co-ordinates: N 54.964133 W 2.364133 (NY76796336)

Comments:  WM001 - This is a fragment of a translucent flint flake. Although there appears to be retouch along the right lateral margin, this does not have the same regularity as true retouch. Furthermore, the piece has been snapped along the left lateral margin, probably during post-deposition, forming the 'point' which gives the piece the appearence of a tool. However, it is not a tool, the piece was probably removed from the core as a problematic piece as there is a clear hinge fracture along the left lateral margin which would have caused problems for further flake removals. The remnant cortex along the poximal end suggests that this material was procured from a derived context such as river gravel or beach pebbles.

WM002 - This is a fragment of chert. It is difficult to accurately identify any specific features of this piece as it has been heavily rolled during post-deposition, although there does appear to be a flake scar on the dorsal surface. However, the striations on the ventral surface suggest that this is the distal fragment of a much larger flake. The piece was probably procured from a local chert source.

Unfortunately, there are no definitive attributes present to securely date these flakes. (Dave Jackson, North Pennines Archaeology Ltd)

Red Flint Flake

red flint flake

Site: Allen Banks, Northumberland (field walking), 21 August 2011

Find No.:  AB001

Co-ordinates: N 54.96674 W 2.31599 (NY 79876361)

Comments:  This is a flake of reddish brown flint with clear knapping attributes. The piece retains at least four previous flake scars on its dorsal surface and the prominent conical bulb of percussion suggests the piece was removed with a hard-hammer. The almost parallel-sided shape of the flake is usually associated with blade technology, although similar flakes can be produced from different modes of lithic technology. The most significant attribute of this flake is a small area of abrupt retouch approximately half way down the right lateral margin, forming a small notch. It is also possible that there is another attempt at a notch immediately above. However, this flake does not comply with any standardised tool-type and may represent an expedient tool. As already mentioned, the most common sources of raw material for this type of flint are the east coast of Yorkshire and the west coast of Cumbria.

The flake cannot be securely dated but it is possible that AB001 belongs to the late Mesolithic / early Neolithic given its blade-like form. (Dave Jackson, North Pennines Archaeology Ltd)

Flint Flakes and Scapers

Flints from Hardriding

edges of two tools from Hardriding

Site: Hardriding Farm, Northumberland (field walking), 30 August 2011

Find Nos.:  (clockwise) HR002, HR004, HR003, HR001, centre HR007

Co-ordinates: Field Centre N 54.97281 W 2.38908 (NY 75196431)

Comments:  HR001 - A translucent black flint flake exhibiting two previous removals on its dorsal surface. The diminutive percussion features and marginal butt suggests removal via the soft-hammer technique.

HR002 - A mottled tan flint flake exhibiting four dorsal scars. It would appear that the proximal end of this piece has broken off, either during removal or post-depositionally.

HR003 - A small, thick scraper produced on mottled grey flint. The dorsal surface of this piece resembles a core platform suggesting that this piece was removed during the rejuvination of the core, before being utilised as a scraper. However, this suggestion must remain speculative due to the absence of any evidence for flake removal instigitated from the possible platform. The piece displays direct abrupt retouch along c.30% of its periphery (see below for further discussion of scrapers).

HR004 - A small rough scraper produced on good quality black flint.The piece displays inverse abrupt and semi-abrupt retouch along most of its periphery.(see below for further discussion of scrapers).

HR007 - This is a heavily abraded and heavily patinated flake of probable grey flint, suggesting that it was deposited at a different time to the rest of the material from Hardriding Farm. However, I believe this to also be a small scraper given its overall appearence and dimensions.It also appears that the distal end and part of its right lateral margin displays the remains of abrupt retouch.

At first glance, the three potential scrapers resemble thumbnail scrapers which are generally attributed to the Early Bronze Age. However, thumbnail scrapers are generally more rounded and more well formed with clear retouch around most of the periphy, whereas these examples are all very rough. In fact, they show more similarities to the micro-scrapers of the Mesolithic period. However, I am always cautious when assigning a date to assemblages from areas where raw material sources are scarce, as expedient tools and less diagnostic tools appear to be more common and certain technologies which have become obsolete in areas rich in raw materials, appear to linger on in those areas which are not, such as Cumbria. As usual, I would suggest that most, if not all of these examples have been produced from raw material procured from the east coast of Yorkshire and/or Lincolnshire. (Dave Jackson, North Pennines Archaeology Ltd)

Flint Flake

flint flake longhirst farm

Site: Longhirst Farm, Cumbria (field walking), 8 Sep 2011

Find No.:  LT001

Co-ordinates: (field centre) N 54.94428 W 2.65381 (NY58226126)

Comments:  A flake of translucent grey flint with remnant cortex along the left lateral margin. The pronounced bulb of percussion suggests removal via a hard-hammer. (Dave Jackson, North Pennines Archaeology Ltd)