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Excavation 2016: The End of Week One

With Week One drawing to a close, 

The finds from the last few days were given a bit of airtime at Paul Pettitt and Alistair Pike's talk at the visitor centre yesterday-- it was great to see everyone who came out! What we have so far is great because it gives a highlights reel of occupation and use of the Crags: Neanderthals, prehistoric fauna, human occupation, then modern disturbance. It gives a nice tangible narrative for us to follow, and now we've begun to round that out. 

On Friday we found a lovely, but broken, cheddar point (pictured)-- named for where this type of shape was originally found, in Gough's Cave at Cheddar Gorge; as compared to the Creswell point, no prizes for guessing where that tool type was discovered! Worked flint was valuable to people in the Palaeolithic because it provided a very sharp cutting edge. Fortunately for us today, flint dulls very quickly each time you use it and needs to constantly be touched up or made new entirely. This is a messy process that leaves loads of small fragments (called debitage) that we can find. This type of flint point was probably mounted on a spear or javelin; Paul, in a moment of inspiration (or boredom) shaped his own rough propel-sur or spear thrower and had a quick throw down the path. No archaeologists, visitors, or animals were harmed; only Paul's pride when the stick went a whopping three metres.

We think we've found a feature in the corner of one of the trenches, a series of river cobbles called potboilers: these were smooth, round stones that were heated up in a fire and sometimes dropped in water; they occasionally crack pretty distinctively through the middle

 from the heat. Their presence implies a hearth or a fire pit of some sort; everyone gets excited and likes to come over to have a look at how it's emerging... until it comes time to move some of the cliff scree around it,

 when suddenly everyone is very busy troweling or sieving elsewhere and couldn't po

For Week Two, we've now come to the archaeological layer and can start pulling it back context by context to start drawing conclusions about what was happening. What we've found so far is very encouraging, but real meaning on archaeological sites comes from comparing layers of stratigraphy against what lies over and under them. We've traced the story back pretty far, but hopefully we'll get an even better picture over the next six days!ssibly be disturbed.

Andrea Leigh, Durham University


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