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Monday, 19 September 2011

Craig Rhosyfelin -- Hammer Stones galore

At the lecture in Newport the other evening, great stress was placed on the discovery of so-called hammerstones in the "bluestone quarry."  Our learned lecturers showed us some pictures of the hammerstones, but they did not seem to be in situ in the deposits of broken scree -- and the precise stratigraphic relationships of these stones remains to be revealed.  Surely they didn't pick them up from the river, did they?  No no -- perish the thought -- that would have been too naughty.

The river is only about 20m away from the dig site.  I wandered down there and took a look, and within a couple of minutes I found a veritable assemblage of beautifully rounded stones in the river gravels.  I wasn't surprised -- that is what one finds in river gravels.  The pics above show some of these.  The blackish stones in the top photo are very nice -- the smaller ones are slightly flattened, but with well rounded edges.  You could, I suppose, use them as hammer stones if you wanted to.  The one on the left is too large to be called a hammer stone -- you would need two hands to use that for knocking or shaping a larger stone.  So you would -- if you were so inclined -- call it a "maul." 

The stone in the lower two photos is a perfect hammer-stone shape -- but again I picked this one up in the river.  It's certainly not local -- goodness knows where it came from.

Back to the geomorphology.  I'm pretty sure, as I said in an earlier post, that the floor of the valley  -- under the veneer of modern sediments -- is covered with fluvio-glacial accumulations.  There will be hundreds if not thousands of stones shaped like the ones in these pictures.  I wouldn't mine betting a few coppers that if the digging team in the quarry had gone down a bit further, they would have come to fluvio-glacial sediments full of flattened sub-rounded stones of rather local origin and a few well rounded stones from far-away places.

Maybe all will be revealed if they carry on with the dig in the 2012 field season.  In the meantime, scepticism is entirely in order....

6 comments:

Tony H said...

To everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a [archaeological] season (Turn, Turn, Turn),
And a time for every purpose under Heaven)...............

..........A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together................

Words adapted from the Bible, Book of Ecclesiastes. [Pete Seeger]
Ecclesistes is traditionally ascribed to King Solomon (born c.1011 BC)

Perhaps we could do with a King Solomon to adjudicate on this issue of the provenance of the hammerstones.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Who is this Solomon fellow? Is he a geomorphologist? Can he be trusted even if he IS a geomorphologist?

Alex Gee said...

Brian
Another point you may wish to consider. Did any of the stones in the photo's of supposed Hammerstones shown at the talk, have the same dark patination/coating as those in your first photo?

This would demonstrate they had been recently collected from the river and not the dig.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Hmmm-- can't remember. But not all stones in the river have the sort of patination shown in my top photo. In my experience, in these rivers a dark patination can be created quite quickly, maybe just over a few years if a stone is exposed at the stream bed to water action and maybe also wetting and drying as water level rises and falls. The bottonm stone also came from the river, and that has no patination at all. I bit of erosion on a river bank or bed can being "fresh" material onto the river bed, just as patinated stones can be buried under accumulating bedforms.

Anonymous said...

Surely the point is that a "hammer stone" will have been used as a hammer and therefore should display some sort of characteristic damage to its surface and structure.
Hammer stones would undoubtedly be selected from stream pebbles of the right sort of hard stone - why work harder than you need?
Mind you, the rocks at Rhos-y- felin are so nicely split into blocks by nature that they would not have needed much working.

BRIAN JOHN said...

At the Newport lecture the digging team claimed that they had found hammer-stones in the dig.But they didn't have them with them, and didn't show proper pictures, as I recall. As you say, there should be considerable surface damage if rounded pebbles really have been used for shaping blocks of flaky rhyolite. I reserve judgment.....