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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

"Foreign" stone implements from N Wiltshire

 HH Thomas, geologist and antiquarian, 1876-1935

Thanks to Gordon for drawing attention to this -- a record of 21 implements made from "imported stone" -- from an area of Palaeozoic rocks.  Found mostly in North Wiltshire.


By H. H. Thomas, F.R.S., and A. D. Passmore.

Wiltshire archaeological and natural history magazine, VOL. XLIV. — NO. CXLIX. (1927-1929)
1928, Pages 246-247

NB.  This article has been scanned and placed on the web -- so there may be inaccuracies in the following text.  Please check by going back to the original:

(ADP) Amongst thousands of stone implements in my own collection from N. Wilts and the adjoining part of Berks are twenty-one specimens made from imported blue or green stone probably obtained in prehistoric times by barter for flint ; thirteen of these are from N. Wilts and consist of polished axes or parts thereof, four with circular cutting edges, pointed butts and nearly round sections are of an early pre-dolmen type ; three with straighter cutting edges, flattened oval sections, and thin butts are later. One fine axe has a slightly curved cutting edge, flattened oval section, thin butt with the side edges ground square, and is the latest of all. The remainder are fragments or lower halves of axes with flattened oval sections. The large perforated hammer axe herein illustrated has a peculiar history. Found in 1840 alongside the Roman road, south of Ogbourne St. George, towards Bytham Farm, it was placed on a mantel shelf and kept in the finder's family till acquired by the writer in 1923. Its length is 6in., its greatest breadth 2in., and its height 2in (i.e., length of perforation). The hole measures 32 mm. in diameter in one direction and 29 mm. in the other. Traces of the original polish may be seen inside. Outside the whole surface is much decayed and pitted by weathering. It weighs 2 lbs. 13 ozs. The hammer end is round in section ; at the centre in the region of the perforation it is square ; while near the cutting edge it is oblong. The hammer end is slightly lower than the other.

All these implements are surface finds, and in no way connected with barrows or earthworks. As a whole they afford valuable evidence of origin, and in this respect were most kindly examined by Dr. H. H. Thomas, F.B.S., whose remarks are as follows.
A. D. P.


(HHT) The implements are of a variety of stone and include dolerites, rhyolite, quartzite and silicified shale and sandstone. The dolerite implements, of which there are a good many, are easily grouped under three separate heads : —

(I). — A moderately coarse olivine dolerite in which decomposed olivine is conspicuous as red and yellow ochreous spots, and which weathers with a pitted surface.

(II ).— A similarly textured dolerite without conspicuous olivine.

(III.). — A finer grained grey speckled dolerite also with no obvious olivine.


1. Half of axe from Liddington, a moderately compact blue grey dolerite with ocherous pseudomorphs after olivine and weathering with a pitted surface.

2. Axe from Avebury, blue grey compact dolerite with abundant ocherous pseudomorphs after olivine.

3. Cutting edge of an axe from Medbourne, of flattened oval section. This is of olivine dolerite with a cavernous surface.

4. Pointed butt of axe from Medbourne, blue grey dolerite with abundant pseudomorphs after olivine.

Group II.

5. Large axe hammer from Ogbourne; this is a coarse grained even textured non-porphyritic greenish-grey dolerite fairly rich in ilmenite and weathered in a rough surface.

6. Axe from Aldbourne, with pointed butt, four inches long, made from dolerite without conspicuous olivine, no obvious ilmenite but the similarity to the stone of the above axe hammer is close.

7. Pointed butt of an axe from Liddington Castle, dolerite without conspicuous olivine, rather fine grained but appears to be similar to Nos. 6 and 22 (a Berks specimen not here described).

8. Half of axe, thin-butted and of flat oval section, from line of Kennett Avenue, Avebury, moderately coarse greenish grey ophitic dolerite similar to the axe hammer and No. 6.

9. Top half of axe, long narrow shape with flattened oval section from Liddington, cavernous surface but appears to be dolerite of the kind without conspicuous olivine.

Group III.

10. A small thin-butted axe with very flattened section, 3 inches long by two inches wide and only 1 inch thick, from Aldbourne. A very fine grained grey speckled dolerite or diabase ; it is unlike any included in the other groups and appears to be olivine free.


11. A small fragment from Liddington Castle, is a fine grained dark grey sandstone not of local derivation.

Indurated Shale.

12. A thin scraper-like implement (probably part of axe) of black silicified shale. At first I thought it was felsite but the material is too soft and it seems to contain flakes of mica. From Liddington.

Rhyolites and Rhyolitic Ashes.

13. Axe from bed of stream south of Lechlade in the parish of Inglesham, is of this group, its red colour is due to accidental firing.

All the implements are imported and made of stone brought from some area of palaeozoic rocks, the types are such as could be procured from N. Wales and the Welsh borders, but other areas of similar rocks are potential sources and our accumulated facts are not yet sufficient to indicate with certainty one region rather than another ; personally, I am inclined to regard Wales as the most likely source.



Myris of Alexandria said...

Many thanks for that it will be used and soon.

Field in SAS III discusses the axe finds in Wiltshire. I must check if he has incorp'ed these data.

FIELD, D. 2011 Neolithic ground axe-heads and monuments in Wessex. In V.Davis and M.Edmonds (eds), Stone Axe Studies III Oxford, Oxbow Books. 325 -332.

No this is not the Ashmolian list.


Field suggests many axes are from Cornubia as does SASII; our recent work on the new finds is less deterministic but none are classical IPG Groups I -IV.
HHT descriptions do not sound I - IV either but only TS work can really tell.

N.Wales seems unlikely.


Evergreen said...

Great stuff. I'm snowed under with work, but snatched moments to read this blog are providing welcome relief. Myris, when will we be able to see the results of your recent work?

Myris of A said...

No mention of this in field.
So a very useful ref.

Myris of Alexandria said...

Ah they all seem to have been captured and re-allocated, many into Cornish mad axe groups in SASII.
The mad axe Groups I - IV, as we all know, need a good 'seeing to' a la the XVI recent work. I shall not comment upon the mad axers,some worthy souls there, but suffice to say for many years Dr Ixer was elected their chairman. Images of (unsuccessfully) herding cats often sprang to mind.

Still it was worth the chase (the Thomas ref, not potential feline capture).