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Saturday, 3 May 2014

Mauls, hammerstones and erratics

The things above are conventionally referred to as mauls, in that they are more irregular in shape than hammerstones and sometimes show evidence of grooves or gripping protrusions to assist in using them for hammering or shaping other stones or organic materials.  Some of them were primitive hammers in that they were bound to a shaft or handle -- and in some cases they were used as weapons, with quite large and heavy stones fixed to a shaft maybe more than a metre long, and used for bashing mammoths or men (if you could get close enough to them while carting around something weighing 10kg or more).  So are there any of these at Rhosyfelin?  I don't recall any mention of them thus far......

As for hammerstones, we have heard about these in MPP's lectures, but I recall seeing just one photo.  Hammerstones come in all sorts of sizes, but of course there is an upper limit to what can be handled and wielded in the process of smashing chunks off larger rocks or breaking boulders or slabs down into smaller fragments.  The illustrations above, by the way,  have nothing to do with Rhosyfelin.......

Some hammerstones -- like the one at top left and the middle stone in the group of three -- have clear evidence of fracturing or percussion marks, and one might find such marks to be good evidence of human use as tools.  But as I have said before, many rounded cobbles and stones have natural markings on them (fractures, grooves pits), and one person's natural phenomenon is another person's hammerstone.  If the presence of hammerstones at Rhosyfelin is crucial to the argument that this place was a Neolithic quarry, it will be interesting to see how strong the evidence actually is that certain stones were used for the bashing of orthostats intended for export to Stonehenge.  Where exactly did they come from in the Rhosyfelin stratigraphy, and how convincing are the percussion marks?

Then we come to the erratics, which are quite frequent at Rhosyfelin.  The top photo here shows a collection of stones taken from the excavations and dumped on the edge of the dig site.  As we can see, some of these are bits and pieces of local rhyolite, and other boulders and stones are rounded or sub-angular in shape, some so big that they can just about be handled by one man -- but certainly too big to be used as either a weapon or a tool......  Mostly these seem to be made of dolerite, but they need to be examined in more detail.  The photo below shows one of these stones in its natural position, embedded in the glacial deposits near the base of the sediment sequence.

It would clearly be ludicrous to suggest that these boulders are anything to do with a quarry -- but I have not yet heard any mention of them from the Rhosyfelin dig team.  Do they admit that there are glacial deposits and glacial erratics here, or have they been airbrushed out so as not to make the story too confusing?  Even more interesting -- have they been interpreted as rather large hammerstones?


TonyH said...

Mauls amd hammerstones, rather like suspected microliths, may be, like Beauty, in the mind of the archaeologist beholding them.

We've been over this possibility many times before on this Blog:

"A Man sees what he wants to see..
....and disregards the rest"

TonyH said...

I wonder what Myris makes of the Rhosyfelin erratics you illustrate here; also any assumed hammerstones - given that he appears to know a Man who is often involved in Geological matters at Rhosyfelin?

BRIAN JOHN said...

So far as I know, Richard has made more frequent visits to the site, and may be more familiar with the things turned up by the diggers. It would be good to get his thoughts too..... and indeed those of Mike and Charly, who clearly advise om geomorphological matters.