Originally however these were tall cliffs,
as high and impressive as Beachy Head today, or the White Cliffs of Dover. The
British Geological Survey sampled chalk from the base of the cliff and from cliff collapse 50 metres south of the cliff, and the microfossils from the two zones indicated an original height of75-100m.
At an early stage, the quarry company was persuaded to dig a section up against the cliff edge which revealed the all-important geological sequence. At the beginning of the Boxgrove interglacial - probably corre-
sponding with oxygen isotope stage 13 in the deep sea core sequence - the sea levels were high and the waves beat against the cliffs. A storm beach banked up against the foot of the cliff and the earliest archaeological remains are found in these beach gravels - ovate hand axes, many battered by being rolled in high tides.
The sandy beach continued out for 50
metres before giving way to the marine sands - the Slindon Sands, named after a village two miles away, and well-known to an earlier generation of archaeologists as a prolific source of hand-axes. The beach would have been a popular place for early man, for it would have been an ideal source of flint, revealed in the constant cliff falls. As the sands developed on top of the beach gravels there is evidence of cliff falls, large blocks of chalk which fell into the sand and were covered by more sand. In and among this material are some thin flint flakes which give evidence of hand axe manufacture.
Gradually the seas retreated further and a series of lagoons built up, possibly caused by
Above. This spread of flints in a characteristic marks this as a flint V shape knapping site.
Below. An expert flint knapper, Chris
Bergman, demonstrates how a handaxe is made. This activity produced formation a V-shaped of flint flakes identical to that from the knapping site.
sand banks further to the south. These lagoonal muds are the most important horizon on the site for the material found within these lagoonal sediments is totally in situ. As these muds formed, a series of knapping and butchery sites were laid down over a very short period of time. Two of these are particularly dramatic, a flint knapping site in
Quarry 1 to the west and a horse butchery site in Quarry 2 to the East.
The Knapping Site
The knapping site was a very tight cluster of flint flakes in a v-shaped pattern typical of that produced by a flint knapper squatting on the ground. It lay on the edge of the exca-
vation, but by digging into the baulk they were able to recover the entire scatter.
Subsequently most of the flakes have been refitted to demonstrate how a handaxe was manufactured.
A flint nodule had presumably been collected from the cliff edge, a hundred metres to the north where it had been roughly knapped into shape - none of the primary early flakes were present. The flint worker then sat down and worked it into an ovate hand axe, leaving being a small pile of debitage. However, when it was nearly finished, disaster struck: the tip broke off. This is technically known as end-shock, and is a perpetual hazard of flint-axe manufacture - the tips rarely break off when the hand axe is in use. The flint worker threw away the broken tip -it was not found on site. He then sat down and re-shaped the core into another smaller hand axe and the majority of the debitage came from this second episode.
CURRENT ARCHAEOLOGY 153