By Rupert J Birtwistle
For the past two years I have been working on an extremely large private collection of lithic implements, collected by Dr Alan Massey, that possesses artefacts dated from the Lower Palaeolithic to later prehistory. Alan has been actively fieldwalking for nearly 20 years, during which he has surveyed and collected lithic artefacts from a number of locations around Scalford, Goadby Marwood and Eastwell.
In 2016, Alan contacted the PAS to request that someone record his collection. Through a quite serendipitous event I found myself with the responsibility of analysing and recording this collection. It did not take long to realise the significance of the assemblage which contains artefacts from all periods of prehistory. As I work full-time as an archaeological Supervisor at Allen Archaeology Ltd whilst undertaking a part-time PhD at University of Leicester, the necessity for funding became apparent. Last year I was successful in acquiring a research grant from the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society which is enabling me to take a break from work and dedicate my time to this task. The research grant is supporting the cataloguing of the material, which is being submitted to the Leicestershire PAS.
This project is of the highest importance for prehistoric archaeology in Leicestershire and will add considerably to the archaeological record for the region as a whole. Currently there is only one tentative example of a Levallois object known from Leicestershire, so the presence of definite Levallois cores and flakes (pictured above left) is of national significance. The opportunity to plot the tempo-spatial dynamics of the assemblage is not only unique for this type of collection but fundamental for interpretation of site history, population movements and the targeting of sites.
The 2000 plus artefacts that I have already analysed possess a large Mesolithic (9000-4000BC) and Neolithic (4000-2200BC) component with numerous microlithic tools and arrowheads. Some tools have even been fashioned on slate, sandstone (pictured) and granite, something that possibly goes unnoticed on other sites, indicating that man was able to work a range of materials into tools. This insight perhaps requires specialists to rethink how diverse later prehistoric communities were in terms of exploitation of various resources. Nearly every artefact type has been present in the assemblage and even some Roman greyware has been found in association with some of the artefacts. Therefore this area has a substantial history. The assemblage is still being recorded but represents a significant site, one that has been revisited countless times and occupied for long periods.
P.S. The Leicestershire volunteer team, recently boosted by Jane Southgate, are working hard to get all of Rupert’s excellent work onto the database so it’s available for research. We currently have just over 1,100 records completed and are doing our best to keep up with Rupert, who is working exceptionally hard to record this important collection so its accessible to all.