| 4 November 2017
Mysterious stone tools unearthed at Welsh Bronze Age site
Amateur archaeologists excavating a Bronze Age site in Wales have discovered a cache of unusual stone tools unlike any that have been found before. The tools appear to have been deposited deliberately - perhaps ceremonially - in what would have been a stream around 4,500 years ago, according to the researchers.
Around 20 of the roughly triangular stone hand tools, of various sizes, were found at the excavation site in the Clwydian Range, a series of hills in Denbighshire in northeast Wales, by the Clwydian Range Archaeological Group (CRAG) during four weeks of excavations in July and August.
"I've not seen anything like them before, and I've talked to a number of colleagues who've never seen anything like them," said Ian Brooks, an archaeologist employed as a consultant by CRAG. The tools were made from a hard limestone found locally, but not in the immediate area of the excavation. "They are rough slabs of the limestone, which have been shaped to produce one pointed end," he said.
The tools vary in size, between 2 inches (50 millimeters) long to about 8.6 inches (220 mm) long. "But they all have this characteristic point at one end, which has then been battered - you've got pitting and distinctive damage on the end, so they've been heavily used," Brooks said.
The purpose of the tools is unknown, and future work by the archaeological team would include examining the utensils in more detail. But, it's possible that the tools were used for chipping ornamental designs onto rock surfaces, he said. "One of the things that you do get in the Bronze Age is the decoration of natural boulders and rock faces, producing things like cut marks and rings and suchlike," Brooks said. "The point on these things would be about the right sort of size for pecking that sort of design."
Brooks explained that all of the mysterious stone tools were found at the bottom of what would have been a stream around 4,500 years ago, on a plateau northeast of the Moel Arthur hill fort. Brooks thinks the site where the tools were found could be more than 1,000 years older than the hill fort itself, based on carbon dating of stones from an 'burnt mound', located beside the former streambed, that dates to between 2456 to 2583 BCE.
The limestone tools did not seem directly related to the activity at the burnt mound, but they appeared to have been deposited on purpose at a particular spot nearby, in what would have been a running stream at the time, he said. Geophysical surveys, funded by CRAG in 2011 and 2012, indicated that the plateau near the burnt mound and the ancient stream may have included a small settlement of roundhouses, a typical style of dwelling in Bronze Age Britain.
Edited from LiveScience (5 October 2017)
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