activity at Boxgrove. Because they were all short lived, the material when found was all in situ, the flakes remaining just where they were deposited. In relation to the area of the quarry excavated, however, these lagoonal episodes form the minority of the Boxgrove work and we must now turn to what followed the lagoons.
The sea level continued to fall, the sea retreating to where it is today or perhaps even further out. The lagoons dried out, soil formed over them, earth worms moved in and formed soil, and plants began to grow on the soil. This soil horizon has produced the majority of the Boxgrove finds, though these are rarely precisely in situ. The plain was probably grassy, with scrub and bushes,
heavily grazed in places by red deer, giant deer, some horse, bison, rhino and even some elephants.
Across this surface there is a steady scatter of archaeological material running 250
metres out from the edge of the cliff and
and the majority were rejected. Some however were judged suitable, and were knapped into rough-outs. These were then carried away, and the thinning flakes removed with a soft hammer are found in the soil horizon, away from the cliff edge. Hundreds of thousands of these thinning flakes have been recovered and several hundred hand axes, predominantly ovates.
When the hand axe was nearly completed and radial flakes had been removed all round, the most tricky part of all still remained -preparing the sharp tip. For this a sharp sideways blow is struck to the tip of the axe which if successful will remove the typical'tranchet' flake leaving a chisel- sharp edge at the tip of the axe. Microwear analysis shows that most of the wear is concentrated at the end where the tip is used as a surgical cutting tool. Further tranchet flakes were sometimes used for re-sharpening a hand axe.
found from one end of the quarry to the other - a distance of 1,000 metres. The mate-
rial varies according to the distance from the cliff. On the scree slopes at the foot of the cliff, chalk was continuously falling down, bringing with it lots of fresh flint nodules. Often nodules were tested for hand axe manufacture, a few flakes were removed,
What is the date of the material from
Boxgrove? There has long been a major dispute between early and late, but majority opinion is coming down in favour of the early date. The big question is: Does the Boxgrove interglacial predate or postdate the Anglian glaciation? This was the most exten-
sive glaciation that Britain has ever seen, when the ice came down almost as far as
London. It is currently dated to between
478,000 and 424,000 years ago. In the traditional four Ice Age sequence, it is the second
Ice Age, the Mindel; in the modern sequence of Ice Ages based on Deep Sea Cores, it is generally considered to be stage 12, that is 6 cold stages back.
When the first hand axes appeared from
Left. When a hand axe was nearly complete, a sharp blow, known as a tranchet blow was struck to the tip to remove a flake so as to leave a sharp cutting edge. Here two tranchet flakes have been re-fitted to a hand axe tip.
Far left. A splendid example of a typical
Boxgrove ovate hand axe. This shows very clearly the tranchet tip. A blow had been struck at the top left hand corner removing a flake from the top quarter of the axe, thus leaving a razor-sharp edge
Opposite, top. Four flints from Boxgrove. Three of them are typical ovate hand axes, but the fourth one appears to have been made into a borer, which is very unusual for such an early date.
Opposite below: Water voles teeth. On the left, primitive teeth which were rooted in the gums.
Right: A more modern style of tooth which grows continuously.
Photo courtesy of the
other photos courtesy of the Boxgrove project.
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