Right. The wide open steppe: Glaston in the upper Palaeolithic as envisaged by the Meet-the-Ancestors artist Jane Brayne. Rafts of limestone protrude above the grassy plain, grazed by herds ofmammoth. Here the site is being used as a hyaena den, with the younger hyaenas burrowing under the lee of the rocks. © Jane Brayne.
Below. Is this one of the burrows, dug out by the hyaenas?
appearance after 60,000 BP. There is a theory that horses and people go together - is there some sort of horse/ human symbiosis? Indeed some of the horse bones appear to have been smashed in order to extract the marrow, though the experts are still arguing as to whether this means human activity.
But how could this site, with its wonderful state of preservation, have survived for so long? To understand the excavation, we must first understand the geology. The site is all 'wrong'. The bones are buried in a sandy deposit, yet the site lies on the top of a ridge where one would expect deposits to be worn away, not built up. It is the last arm of the Jurassic ridge which runs down into the Fens, between the River Welland on the south and the River Chater to the north.
When the sides of the valleys slumped during the severe peri-
glacial conditions at the very end of the Ice Age, the top of the ridge collapsed in slightly, forming a slight hollow, known as the 'graben' effect. But this is not the whole story and the fantastic preservation of the bone was due to the earlier geology. The site was founded on soft sands laid down in the Jurassic, probably the bed of a shallow, marine lake. Overlying the sands lay a spread of large, sandstone rocks (rafts) - the eroded remains of the Lincolnshire limestone layer. These sandstone rafts and the uppermost levels of the sands, are rich in carbonates from the Jurassic marine life and have allowed for the remarkable preservation of the bones which would otherwise have been destroyed by the acid sands.
Today the sandstone outcrops are all under the surface, but they are still there, in some cases, reasonably substantial, the largest being some Sm across. The medieval occupants of the site were certainly aware of the rafts and in some cases their ditches were interrupted or diverted to avoid having to dig through them. In the Palaeolithic however, the rocky outcrops may have been a prominent feature in the landscape, possibly standing up to a metre in height. In an otherwise fairly bleak environment such features would have attracted activity. The combination of the high ridge top with commanding views into the river valleys and the presence of shelter in the form of the rock formations would have made an ideal site for both man and other animals alike.
• The leaf point The site falls into two parts, possibly two very different occupations, possibly many years apart, one with a human presence, the other a hyena den. The main evidence for the human presence is still essentially the single leaf shaped point, a magnificent piece of flint work.
The point was most probably used as a spear tip, the blade it was made on having been retouched to aid hafting and flight. This type of projectile point is common in parts of Germany and Poland and is typical of the Early Upper Palaeolithic. In this country they are relatively rare. Approximately 30 find spots prior to Glaston have been recorded, including Creswell Crags and the important but little known open air site at Beedings, near Pulborough, in Sussex. This is the time when the Neanderthals were being replaced by modern anatomically humans, but it is impossible to say which used such points; for what it is worth only two such points have been found with
You have no current subscriptions in your account.
Would you like to explore the titles in our collection?
You have no collections in your account.
Would you like to view your available titles?