AMS system
accelerator mass spectrometry system; a method of achieving accurate radiocarbon dates for very small samples

anatomically modern humans
people with the same physical appearance and intelligence as ourselves who appeared in western Europe between 40,000 and 35,000 years ago, eventually replacing Neanderthal people there. During the Palaeolithic period these people lived by hunting wild animals and gathering natural plant foods. They made their homes in caves and rockshelters where these were available, as well as building tents and houses on open sites.

antler tine
small points of antler which stick out from the main shaft just above the animal's head

a group of artefacts found in place together. An assemblage might contain a distinct type or types of artefact such as the Creswellian or, it may be characteristic of a particular type of activity for example, a butchery or funerary assemblage. Assemblages consisting of similar artefacts of particular types may be described by the name of a period such as the Bronze Age or, as a culture such as the Aurigacian.

the study of human life in the past by the excavation of sites and the analysis of the structures, objects, human, animal and plant remains they contain.

an object used, modified or made by humans for example, a flint tool.

early Upper Palaeolithic cultural phase named after the cave of Aurignac, France, beginning in Europe about 40,000 years ago and lasting until about 22,000 years ago. The assemblages recognised as Aurignacian were made by anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens, as they gradually replaced Neanderthalpopulations, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis whose assemblages are referred to as Middle Palaeolithic.

a small point tool used for making holes especially in leather. Upper Palaeolithic awls may be made of bone or stone.



backed blade
stone blade blunted by retouch along one side. Such a high angled edge would not cut back into a wood, bone or antler haft or handle during use. Such thicker edges could also have glue applied to them to help hold the tool in place in its haft.

removal of tiny retouch flakes to form a blunt edge or edges on a stone tool.

a type of pottery sometimes found with copper tools in the earliest part of the Bronze Age.

shaped to form an angle. During the Upper Palaeolithic the bottoms of bone, antler and ivory points were trimmed on one or both sides to form an angle, thinning the base so that it could then be fixed into a haft.

a shape formed when two cones are placed together point to point. A biconical hole is often formed when an object is drilled from both sides.

see handaxe

relates to flaking a stone tool on both faces for example, handaxes and leaf points are described as bifacially flaked.

piece of stone, often flint, at least twice as long as it is wide. Blades are struck from cores which have been deliberately prepared to make them. They are often retouched to form different types of tools.

a flake or blade before it has been retouched to make a particular type of tool.

a geological deposit consisting of fragments of rock and finer sediment particles. In a cave formed in limestone, the rock fragments are mostly pieces of limestone from the walls and roof. The finer sediments are also derived from the limestone or, they may have come in from outside. The amount of rock and fine sediment varies according to how the breccia formed. Bones and artefacts may become part of a breccia. A breccia may be a mass of loose debris but is often hardened because water draining through the cave walls dissolves the limestone producing a solution of calcium carbonate which, in the breccia, hardens like cement.

Bronze Age
A period of time when the use of the first metal artefacts, made of bronze, gradually became widespread. In Britain this period is dated to approximately 4,000 - 3,000 years ago.

bulbar surface
the surface of a struck flake or blade which was detached from the core showing the characteristics ofconchoidal fracture. Also known as the ventral surface.

Bunter Sandstone
Used in Britain to refer to particular geological unit dominated by quartzite pebbles. Pebbles derived from the Bunter Sandstone are also known as Bunter Pebbles.

an engraving tool. During the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic burins were made by knocking a small flake called a burin spall from the side of a blade to leave a small straight edge at the top. This edge was like the tip of a pencil. By drawing it along a stone, bone, antler or ivory surface under a little pressure, the user could make lines of varying lengths and depths. This technique could be used to produce drawings of animals or, to cut the outlines of bone or antler rods to used for making tools and weapons such as needles and points.

the remnant of the striking platform on the proximal end of a flake or blade.



a rock or sediment which contains a significant amounts of calcium carbonate

the most common crystalline form of calcium carbonate (see also speleothemstalagmitestalactite,travertine)

a mineral involving bound carbon and oxygen; limestone is commonly composed of calcium carbonate but the Creswell limestone also includes magnesium carbonate (cf. Magnesian)

a group of animals (Carnivora) with powerful jaws and teeth able to kill and eat other animals or, any animal which eats the meat from another animal.

a general term referring to deposits of small stones and finer sediments which have been deposited in a cave by relatively gentle and local processes

term used to describe the flaking of a roughly circular core when flakes have been removed from its surface from a striking platform which goes right around its edge.

stone tool made on a pebble or cobble, often quartzite, from which flakes have been struck from one face to make a sharp edge, leaving the rest of the natural surface unmodified. Known but not restricted to the Lower andMiddle Palaeolithic.

chopping tool
stone tool made on a pebble or cobble, often quartzite, from which flakes have been struck from both faces to make a sharp edge, leaving the rest of the natural surface unmodified. Known but not restricted to the Lower andMiddle Palaeolithic

a fine grained sedimentary rock composed of clay and siderite (iron carbonate) which sometimes occurs overlying coal measures.

conchoidal fracture
the way in which materials such as glass and flint break. When a flint knapper strikes a piece of flint with a hammer, the force of the blow spreads through the flint as waves originating from the point of impact or percussion. The direction of force can be detected in the concentric rings known as ripple marks which spread out from the point of percussion on the bulbar surface of the flake.

the position of an artefact or other remains within a landscape, geological deposit or archaeological structure and its relationship to other material evidence.

having an edge or outline which curves outwards like the outside edge of a circle.

the fossilised droppings of mammals or reptiles (technically, ichnofossils). In caves, coprolites usually derive from bone-eating carnivores such as hyenas. They contain many small fragments of crunched and digested bone and, occasionally, pollen.

term used to describe the roughly heart-shaped form of some handaxes which are rounded at the bottom and have sided which curve slightly inwards to join in a point.

waste product or debitage left over when a tool maker has finished striking flakes or blades from a cobble or nodule of stone. The shape of the core and the pattern of scars left by the flakes or blades removed from it show how it was worked and what was struck off. These clues suggest how old it might be.

the unmodified natural outer surface of a stone

a term used by archaeologists to connect assemblages which contain the same distinctive types of artefacts and may be interpreted as representing a particular people or society

Late Upper Palaeolithic assemblages characterised by a particular type of backed point. These assemblages date to around 12,000 years ago. The type site for the Creswellian is Mother Grundy's Parlour.



, unmodified flakes and blades, as well as chips and chunks of stone left over when a stone tool maker has finished working. The term is also now used to refer to the process of reducing a nodule into various pieces in contrast to the process of faconnage which describes the shaping of a tool from a large piece of stone by the removal of flakes

the last glacial period (or Ice Age) of the Pleistocene in Britain, between about 80,000 years ago and 10,000 years ago. At the height of the glaciation about18,000 years ago, the Creswell area lay quite near but not under the glacial ice

to separate the bones of an animal skeleton at the joints. Disarticulation of a skeleton may take place during butchery or, as a result of natural processes following death.

used to refer to the tip of a flake or blade opposite the butt or proximal end and furthest away from the tool maker or, the bottom end of a bone, furthest from the centre of the body.



Early Upper Palaeolithic
In Britain, the period of the Upper Palaeolithic dating from about 40,000 to 30,000 years ago. Separated from the Late Upper Palaeolithic by the last glacial maximum about 18,000 years ago.

Electron spin resonance. A radiometric dating technique which seeks to measure the energetic radioactive decay products which have built up at a steady rate within a crystalline material since it was formed. Measurements of the these decay products in teeth, bones and some speloeothem can provide an estimate of their age back to about 350,000 years ago. Although capable of producing some reliable age estimates, this technique sometimes provides some unlikely results and needs to be evaluated with evidence obtained by other methhods such as TL and OSR.



a high, narrow cavity in limestone. Fissures often develop from a pre-existing crack in the rock

piece of stone struck from another using a hammer. A flake may be a waste product or debitage as in the case of flakes struck off in the making of a handaxe or, they may be deliberately produced for use as tools.

flake tool
flake on which one or more edges have been modified by retouch for use as a tool.

a deposit of calcium carbonate on the walls or floor of a cave deposited from a constant flow of water over its surface.

Font Robert point
a tanged stone projectile point of the earlier Upper Palaeolithic. The tang is formed by abrupt retouch on both sides. Above the tang, the point has a lozenge shape and is retouched to form the pointed tip. Two examples are known at Creswell Crags.



characterised or produced by the presence or action of ice. The phrase ‘glacial period’ does not necessarily imply the presence of actual glaciers. Glacial periods (colder than today) alternated with interglacial periods (as in the present) throughout the Pleistocene

glacial till
geological deposit consisting of mixture of clay, sands and rocks of varying size and type picked up and dragged along by a glacier then dumped as the ice melted. As known as a diamicton.

a phase of the Upper Palaeolithic in Europe dating from about 28,000 to 22,000 years ago distinguished by particular tool types especially backed blades and points.



an environment providing the food and shelter required for an animal to make its home.

the process of fixing a stone or metal tool or weapon into or onto a handle.

a pebble used as a hammer to strike flakes from another piece of stone.

a stone tool found on both Lower and Middle Palaeolithic sites. Handaxes, also known as bifaces, vary a lot in size and shape. They are made by knocking flakes off across both faces of a piece of stone using another stone as a hammer. To make a handaxe the tool maker would begin by roughing out the required shaped removing as much of the natural outer surface or cortex of the nodule as possible. Continuing with the stone hammer or changing to an antler hammer, the rough out would then be shaped down and thinned across both faces producing a more or less continuous edge around all or most of the piece. If necessary the edges and tip might be finished by the removal of tiny retouch flakes. Handaxes were used with handles. Their edges made them useful for many jobs such as butchering animals, cutting soft materials, scraping fat from animals skins and woodworking.

hinge fracture
the distal end of a flake which is relatively thick and rounded in cross-section. When the toolmaker strikes off a flake at the cottect angle, the force of the blow travels through and out of the struck block detaching a flake with a thin, sharp end. If the striking angle is not accurate, the force of the blow may stop short resulting in a thick, rounded end which is unsuitable for use.

the present warm period, starting at the end of the last Ice Age (the Devensian) about 10,000 years ago



Ice Age
a cold period during which ice sheets and glaciers at times extended beyond their present limits.

a warm stage between Ice Ages. The present warm period can be considered as an interglacial.

a short warmer phase which alternates with colder stadial phases during a glacial period.

the interglacial period immediately before the last Ice Age, during which animals such as elephant, rhinoceros and hippopotamus reached Britain. The main warm phase was centred about 125,000 years ago.

Iron Age
the period of time between the Bronze Age and the Roman period when use of metal artefacts made of iron first became widespread. In Britain this period is dated approximately 3,000 - 2,000 years ago.


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stone deliberately modified using a hammer.



Last Cold Stage 
the last cold period 75,000-10,000 years ago

Late Upper Palaeolithic
In Britain, the period of the Upper Palaeolithic dating from about 15,000 to 10,000 years ago. Separated from the Early Upper Palaeolithic by the last glacial maximum about 18,000 years ago.

leaf point
a stone projectile tip pointed at both ends, produced by bifacial flaking and characteristic of the period covering the end of the Middle Palaeolithic and the beginning of the early Upper Palaeolithic.

direction following the greatest length of an area or object.

Lower Palaeolithic
the oldest part of the Old Stone Age or Palaeolithic often characterised by assemblages in which handaxes are the main type of tool. The oldest known evidence for the Lower Palaeolithic in Britain is currently dated to about 500,000 years ago and is thought to continue until about 130,000 years ago.

Lumbar vertebra
bones of the lower part of the back.



the last phase of the European Upper Palaeolithic dating from about 18,000 to 10,000 years ago and named after the site of La Madeleine, France.

Magnesian Limestone
a limestone rock containing a mix of calcium and magnesian carbonate

a soft fatty substance found inside some bones.

archaeological period immediately following the end of the last Ice Age in the earlier part of the Holocene dated to between about 10,000 and 7,000 years ago. The way of life was still based on hunting animals and gathering plant foods. Mesolithic stone tool assemblages often contain small flint tools called microliths. These were probably put together in groups forming composite tools. For example, a series of backed bladelets could be lined up in a wooden handle to form a knife or, other types of microliths could be used to form the tips and barbs or spear or arrow tips.

Middle Palaeolithic
period of time in the later Pleistocene, in Britain between 100,000 and 40,000 years ago, when flakes produced from prepared cores and flake tools were made and sometimes used alongside cordiform, discoidal and triangular handaxes. Middle Palaeolithic assemblages are the toolkits of Neanderthal people.

a term used for the Middle Palaeolithic of southwest France, named after the site of Le Moustier.



type of human known as Homo sapiens neanderthalensis which began to evolve in Europe about 250,000 years ago and later spread to the Middle East. By the time of the last Ice Age, fossil remains of these people show that their faces had distinct eyebrow ridges, flattened noses and heavy jaws. Their bodies were short and well built. These features may be adaptations to the cold conditions of the last Ice Age. Neanderthals survived in parts of Europe until some time after 30,000 years ago. For a time they seem to have lived side-by-side withanatomically modern humans who were beginning to appear in western Europe by about 40,000 years ago.

period when the first farmers and animal herders appear, with assemblages that usually include pottery and polished stone axes. In Britain the Neolithic starts about 7,000 years ago, lasting until the start of the Bronze Age about 4,000 years ago.



containing bone.


optically stimulated luminescence, a radiometric dating technique which measures the energetic radioactice decay products which have built up at a steady rate within sand/silt grains since their last exposure to bright sunlight and provides an estimate of the time that has elapsed since burial. Measurement is achieved as in TLdating. In theory, age estimates of up to 350,000 years could be achieved by this method but the small sample size, an individual grain, may make dating beyond 150,000 years difficult.

Oxygen isotope curve
The most reliable curve indicating changes in world climate over approximately the last 1 million years. The proportion of oxygen isotope 18 and 16 taken from deep sea cores is used to show how much ice is present at the poles which reflects world temperatures. Increases in oxygen isotope 18 indicate cold glacial periods.



word used for the period of the Old Stone Age made up from the Latin word palaeo (old) and the Greek word lithos (stone). The Palaeolithic is divided into Lower, Middle and Upper periods.

the study of extinct and fossil animals and plants

the study of pollen grains and other spores found in geological and archaeological deposits.

characteristic of a region close to an ice sheet but not covered in ice. In such a region, the ground may be frozen all year, thawing and waterlogging the surface in summer because it cannot drain away through the sub-surface ice. Such regions support only tundra vegetation.

the geological period some 280-235 million years ago when warm, shallow seas occupied much of the eastern part of Britain at this time giving rise to the Magnesian Limestone of the Creswell area.

the term used to describe the period of climatic changes, including ice ages, from about 1.8 million years ago to 10,000 years ago. The long term average temperature was significantly lower than current levels. During the Pleistocene, glacial (colder periods) alternated with interglacial (warmer) periods. The glacial periods lasted much longer than the interglacials.

the time after a glacial period usually referring to the present period of relative warmth known as the Holocene

a weapon such as a spear, dart or arrow designed to be thrown

used to refer to the struck or butt end of a flake or blade which would be nearest to the tool maker during manufacture or, the top end of a bone nearest the centre of the body.



a metamorphic rock consisting mainly of quartz.



a radioactive isotope of carbon (carbon-14), produced in the upper atmosphere and absorbed in a known proportion by all plants and animals. Once the organism dies, the radiocarbon begins to decay at a steady, known rate. Measuring the amount of radiocarbon remaining in an arganic sample provides an estimate of its age.

radiocarbon dates
an estimate of the age of a piece of organic matter obtained by using the known decay rate of the radioactive isotope of carbon (carbon-14). Radiocarbon dating is accurate up to about 40,000 years ago after which there is too little radiocarbon remaining to measure the decay without error.

refering to a method of dating which seeks to measure an approximation of real time, or age estimate, in years before present, using the steady decay of radioactive elements and/or the steady accumulation of radioactive decay products. See OSLESRradiocarbon and uranium series.

modification of a handaxe, flake or blade to improve the quality of its working edges. Using a small, stone, antler or wooden hammer, tiny flakes are chipped from the edge to change its shape, angle and sharpness to suit a particular type of job. A cutting edge might have a low angle and straight shape whereas an edge needed for scraping fat from the inside of skins requires a medium angle and a curved shape to prevent cutting and snagging. Abrupt, high angled retouch or backing may be used to blunt an edge for hafting.

root etching
pattern formed on a bone or stone surface caused by root growth.



a common type of stone tool used throughout the Palaeolithic. Produced by retouching the edges or ends of flakes and blades, they were probably used for a variety of tasks such as scraping fat from the inside of animal skins and wood working.

a mass of loose boulders, smaller pieces of rock and sediment at the bottom of a cliff or steep slope.

a body of material laid down either in air of water at or near the earth’s surface. Sediments are usually dominated by minerals but they may also contain biological remains (fossils). Sediments may later become compacted, cemented and variously altered to form sedimentary rocks, for example sand becoming sandstone.

shouldered point
point usually made on a blade.The point is formed by an oblique truncation of the upper part of the edge produced by abrupt retouchBacking retouch is occurs along the edge of the blade forming an angle or shoulder where it meets the truncation.This type of point is found in the Creswellian in Britain.

any reasonably pure chemical precipitate found in caves. The majority of speleothems are of calcite, the carbonate being derived from solution of the surrounding limestone, and have been classified by their form intoflowstonestalactitestalagmite and travertine.

a colder stage within a glacial period often corresponding with growth of glacial ice and alternating with warmerinterstadials.

speleothem with a characteristic form like an icicle which hangs from a cave roof.

speleothem with a characteristic form like a tapering tower growing upwards from a cave floor. The term stalagmitic is used generally to apply to any forms on a cave floor.

grassy, unforested region suitable for large herds of grazing animals.

stratigraphy / stratigraphic
the spatial ordering of geological layers or strata. It is usually assumed, and is commonly true, that one layer is laid down upon the previous layer in an orderly progression through time creating a stratigraphy.

striking platform
the surface of a stone that is struck by a stone tool maker in order to detach a flake.



a projection at the bottom of a tool or weapon by which it is attached to a haft or handle.

an object deliberately modified for a particular use such as a retouched flake or blade.

speleothem forming a more or less continuous stalagmitic floor.

treeless vegetation of a periglacial region consisting of mosses, lichens and low growing shrubs suitable only for animals such as reindeer.

(in archaeology) a named location internationally accepted as the reference point for a distinct type of tool, assemblage or culture.



Upper Palaeolithic
period in the late Pleistocene, in Britain between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, when stone tool assemblages made by anatomically modern humans appeared. In Britain, this period is divided into the Early and Late Upper Palaeolithic which are separated by the last glacial maximum about 18,000 years ago.

Uranium series dating
a dating technique (also known as Uranium/Thorium, U/Th) which aims to measure the gradual decay rate of naturally formed radioactive uranium found in materials such as teeth and flowstone. This technique can provide dates up to 350,000 years ago.

use wear
damage to the edge of a tool caused during use. Such damage may consist of irregular chipping visible to the naked eye or, scratches and polishes which can only be seen using a microscope. It will show how a tool has been used and can sometimes indicate what it was used on.


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