Finds Through The Ages – The Mesolithic Period in Berkshire

This week we look at finds from the Mesolithic period which dates from 9000 BC – c. 4000 BC. During this time we see the continuation of blade technology which emerged from the Early Upper Palaeolithic (40,000-24,000 BC), as well as tranchet axe manufacture. Tools include: Tranchet axes, blades and bladelets (less than 12mm wide), microliths (obliquely truncated points), endscrapers, burins (small plough-like tools used to cut grooves in bone and antler).

Only 9 lithic tools from the Mesolithic period have been recorded on the PAS database which were found in West Berkshire, and surprisingly none on the East side of Berkshire so far.


Mesolithic 'tranchet' axe
BERK-D1E2C2. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0


This ‘tranchet’ axe was found in Newbury, West Berkshire. This is a complete knapped flint tranchet adze or pick dating to the Mesolithic period (8300-4000 BC). The pick has been made from a flint nodule and is broadly sub-rectangular in plan with both the butt end and the bladed cutting edge being slightly rounded; the pick tapers slowly from the butt end towards the blade. At the tip of the axe blade is the characteristic ‘tranchet’ flake removal, which gives this type of adze or pick its name. This is where it was sharpened by the removal of a single flake with a transverse blow. These types of ‘tranchet’ axes were used throughout the Mesolithic period.

Mesolithic crested blade
BERK-CDE464. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0
BERK-CDE464. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

These two complete flint ‘crested blades’ of Mesolithic date (8,000 -4,000 BC) were found in Kintbury, West Berkshire. The smaller blade has a trace of cresting at its distal end. Both blades are heavily patinated white on their surfaces while internally the flint is a greyish-blue in colour. This is typical of flints from this area.

Taken from the PAS record BERK-CDE464, Anni Byard comments:

“The presence of these two crested blades is evidence of blade and bladelet production and with the associated finds (BERK-CEB825) is further evidence of Mesolithic flint production in the area, which is known of through the discovery of a Mesolithic flint mine in nearby Wawcott, carbon dated to the late Mesolithic (4360-3780 BC cal; Froom 1972). The Kennett Valley is well-known for its Mesolithic remains (see for example Lobb & Rose 1996) which in this area appears to span the period between c. 8,000-3000 BC (Froom 1972:19) with over 50 sites of Mesolithic date having been identified along a 6-mile stretch (ibid.) which includes the findspot area. These objects add to the already large corpus of prehistoric flint tools found in the area.”

[The references cited are:

Froom, F.R. 1972. Some Mesolithic Sites in South-West Berkshire. Berkshire Archaeology Society. Pages 11-22.

Lobb, S.J. & Rose, P.G. 1996. Archaeological Survey of the Lower Kennet Valley, Berkshire. Trust for Wessex Archaeology Ltd. Pages 73-75.]

Often people come to us with lithic tools which they find in their own back gardens. Click on the link below to see an example from the PAS database where 200 lithic implements were found during gardening activities!



Portable Antiquities Scheme. 2013. Recording fling and stone: A Guide and Protocol.

The Trustees of the British Museum, 1968. Flint Implements.