Type:  Flake

Location: Biddenham Pit, England



MoST ID: 6314

Pedestal Link: https://une.pedestal3d.com/r/d8-elbxBiQ

Model Author:  Mary-Anne Stone

This flint flake is from the Biddenham Pit in England.  Artefacts from the Biddenham Pit are thought to date  to the Acheulean period, ca. 300,000-500,000  BP.

The artefact is curated by the Australian Institute of Archaeology, catalogue no. IA24.219.

This flake was struck by hard-hammer percussion from a nodule of high-quality flint with chalky cortex.  The hominin stoneworker possessed sophisticated knowledge of fracture mechanics.  The stoneworker first attempted to strike behind a straight ridge on the core face formed by the junction of a cortical surface with a prior flake struck in the same direction.  This first attempt  was probably struck at too steep of an angle, resulting in a deep hinge termination.  The stoneworker readjusted the core and recalibrated the blow, striking slightly further from the edge and to the left of the previous blow, but orienting the blow down the same ridge.  This time the blow was successful and detached this somewhat elongated flake.  Relatively deep undulations on the ventral surface suggest that the propagating crack was relatively unstable, probably influenced by the relatively flat core face combined with the steep exterior platform angle (approaching 90 degrees).  The damage to the edges of the flake is due to taphonomic processes as the flake tumbled in the river gravels.

See the annotations for technological details about this stone tool.

By ca. 600,000-700,000, hominins began expanding out of the Iberian peninsula and crossed the Pyrenees Mountains into the region of modern France.  Famous handaxe sites in France include the type site for the Acheulean, St Acheul, in gravel deposits on the Somme River; Terra Amata, in Nice on the French Riviera; and La Noira, on a tributary of the lower Loire River.  By 500,000 BP, Acheulean hominins were living what is now southern Britain (the English Channel did not exist at this time), most notably at Boxgrove in West Sussex, which preserves the best-preserved Late Acheulean handaxe-making localities so far discovered.  Acheulean handaxe are found widely across the southern UK, including the famous finds at Hoxne, and a large modern sculpture of a handaxe commemorates the artefacts found in the Barnfield Pit near Swanscombe.

This flake is from the Biddenham Pit, a famous Lower Palaeolithic site near the town of Biddenham in Bedfordshire County, England.  Acheulean handaxes were discovered by James Wyatt at the ‘Deep Spinney Pit’—later referred to as the Biddenham Pit—in 1861.  The handaxes were from gravel deposits in the high terrace of the ancient Great Ouse River, and were found in associated with the bones of extinct animals.  He showed the site to leading scientists of the day, including Charles Lyell, Joseph Prestwich, and John Evans, who were influential arguing for the acceptance of the deep antiquity of humans.  This, in turn, softened the ground for Charles Darwin’s ideas on human evolution in The Descent of Man.  At the time, the Biddenham Pit was as well-recognised as the better-known Acheulean sites of St Acheul in Amiens, France, and Hoxne in Suffolk, England.  The archaeologist Francis Knowles, an associate of the Pitt Rivers Museum and an early experimental flintknapper, collected handaxes and flakes from the Biddenham Pit from 1900-1911.  More than 1500 of these are in the Pitt Rivers Museum collections.  The flake in this model may have been collected by Knowles.  The archaeological material is from the base of the gravel section and the dating is uncertain, but the tools were probably deposited there prior to 300,000 BP.

Biddenham Pit excavations in ca. 1909 (from Roberts 2013:Fig 9.3).