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Easton Down

Ancient Mine / Quarry


Details of site on Pastscape

Neolithic flint mining site with evidence for later Neolithic and early Bronze Age activity. The site was discovered by JFS Stone in 1929, and he undertook extensive excavations in the vicinity from 1930 to 1934, examining several other features in addition to the mines. The site was surveyed in 1979 by RCHME in advance of proposals to allow a battle run through the site. The site was reinvestigated and its excavation history thoroughly assessed by RCHME in 1995-6 as part of the Industry and Enclosure in the Neolithic Project. See the archive report for full details.

The Neolithic flint mining site at Easton Down was discovered in 1929 by JFS Stone and investigated by him in a series of excavations between 1930 and 1934. Excavations were also carried out by him on a number of adjacent sites (see SU 23 NW 4, 23, 28, 65, 70) at the same time.
Surface indications of c. 90 mine shafts were identified over a large area immediately to the N and W of the linear earthworks (see SU 23 NW 4) in an area centred on c SU 237358. The survival of surface evidence seems to have been primarily due to the fact that this area had never been ploughed. The area south of the linear earthwork and west of the track leading to Easton Down Farm had been ploughed but Stone felt that surface finds etc indicated a continuation of the mining into this area.
Stone selected a number of probable shafts and working floors for excavation. Most of the shafts or pits examined proved to be roughly circular and up to 12ft in depth. Those that were apparently involved in successful flint extraction exploited the 4th flint seam (called floorstone by Stone), passing through an upper seam (topstone) and two narrow bands of tabular flint. However, several of the pits did not reach any flint at all.
No galleries were encountered at the bases of any of the excavated pit, though one, Pit B49, featured a series of "undercuttings" at the level of the exploited seam. A further pit had been dug through the base of this pit, passing through a tabular flint seam before coming to an end.
Stone's description of shaft infills is generally lacking in detail, but generally conforms to a pattern of larger chalk blocks towards the bottom with progressively smaller, finer material towards the top. In a few cases there a clear instances of material having entered from a particular direction, these normally being associated with, or extensions of, surface working "floors".
Artefacts consisted generally of flint flakes and a small number of implements, plus some animal bones, including antler and ox scapulae. In the late 1960s, a C14 determination was obtained by the BM from antler excavated by Stone from one of the shafts. The uncalibrated result, 4480 +/-150 BC, indicates that mining was probably underway by the early 3rd millennium BC, possibly earlier, but is unsatisfactory on its own.
Stone also identified and ecxavated a series of "working floors". Their relationship with the mining is unclear. Some were clearly stratified above infilled shafts, while others continued down into the upper and secondary fills of shafts. They consisted in the main of flakes and a few implements, and according to Stone mainly represent debris from the manufacture of axes. Stone does not say so explicitly, but it seems that little if any pottery was recovered from the excavated floors and shafts. (1-4)
The flint mining complex at Easton Down was surveyed by RCHME in December 1995 and January 1996 as part of the project to record industry and enclosure in the Neolithic. Seventy shallow depressions representing filled in flint mine shafts lie around the head of a dry re-entrant. Most of these are circular, averaging around 5m in diameter and few exceed 0.3m in depth. Amorphous spoil heaps can also be detected around the shafts. Other features in the area, including a round barrow (SU 23 NW 23) and a linear cairn were also noted. See archive report for full details. (5)

(1) The Wiltshire archaeological and natural history magazine Stone, JFS. Easton Down, Winterslow, S Wilts, Flint Mine Excavation 1930. 45, 1931 Page(s)350-65
(2) The Wiltshire archaeological and natural history magazine Stone, JFS. Excavations at Easton Down, Winterslow, 1931-2 46, 1933 Page(s)225-242
(3) The Wiltshire archaeological and natural history magazine Stone, JFS. Excavations at Easton Down, Winterslow, 1933-4 47, 1935 Page(s)68-80
(4) Robin Holgate 1991 Prehistoric flint mines Shire archaeology [series] 67
(5) Field Investigators Comments RCHME: Industry and Enclosure in the Neolithic: Easton Down, Wiltshire
Chance Posted by Chance
19th August 2012ce

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