Remember this box discovered during recent building works?
Today’s posting comes from undergraduate Dalva Gerberon, who has been investigating. Over to you, Dalva…
I undertook the study of the Jacquetta Hawkes collection for the Archives of the Oxford Institute of Archaeology in December 2016 as a part of my fieldwork as a second year undergraduate in Archaeology and Anthropology. It was particularly exciting to be given the responsibility of these items – the arrowheads are particularly impressive, both in their aspect and in their quality. Studying the collection required spending a lot of time observing the items one by one and analysing them, which forced me to see more about them that what I could them from just one glance; eventually it led me to note important and interesting details, such as fractures, retouches, or decorations. I definitely enjoyed getting to know these objets and working out their functions and roles in the life of the inhabitants of the site.
This collection of objects was given to Jacquetta Hawkes, during a visit to Portugal in 1949. It was presented to us in three different boxes, which we ordered from 1 to 3, starting counter-clockwise from the top. Box number 1 was a long box that contained 66 flints – flakes, blades, and arrowheads – ranging from medium-sized to very small. Box number 2 was a smaller, closed card box – item n°87 of this list. It contained 20 items, 15 of them arrowheads, while the other 5 were bone tools involved in the processing of fabric. Box number 3 was a long box that contained 4 cylindrical stone items and 9 roughly rectangular fired clay items, all of unknown purpose. In addition, in also contained a plastic bag and its 10 ceramic fragments of varying size and shape. In total, the collection has 110 items, plus one extra fragment that probably comes from another item of the collection.
Some of the objects of the first box, especially the few arrowheads, were roughly, if not poorly, executed, and display marks of imprecise knapping. More importantly, they appear to have been made from poor-quality stone; some items were made from the outer stone (cortex), and not from the core, which would be more solid, and better to work or knap. This leads to the possibility that these were practice pieces, given to children or learners as an exercise, not to produce items for use. On the other hand, the second box contained very fine arrowheads, most of them quite small and fine, which indicates that the site was also occupied by individuals who mastered stone toolmaking techniques and could produce high-quality tools and weapons, and retouch them to enhance them. The broader range of stones used indicates that they also knew which raw material to select to optimise the quality of their tool.
The last box posed more of a problem in terms of interpreting and analysing its objects. The nature of the cylindrical objects was uncertain as we did not know what material they were made of. We concluded that they are fossilised plant stems, broken in several pieces. Their purpose is still unsure, but the traces of use-wear that can be seen on some of them would suggest that they could have been used for grinding. The fired clay items clearly appear to be loom-weights. They were held in place by strings that went through the holes that we can see at each of their corners – some of them were elongated by the pulling action. Most interestingly, the weights are decorated with engraved lines in varying patterns.
The last part of the collection was the 10 pottery fragments contained in the plastic bag found in box n°3. 5 of them were glazed ceramics that we identified as the typically Roman Samian ware. Four of them were shards of fired clay pottery, and the remaining one was a bit of plaster. All of these can be identified as belonging to the Roman period, while the rest of the collection belongs to the Chalcolithic period.
This information could be particularly helpful in identifying the site of origin of these items, as both the site and precise age of these items are still unknown to us. The presence of both Samian ware and Chalcolithic tools on the site strongly suggest that it was occupied from the Copper Age until the Roman occupation, at least. In that case, it means that we are probably looking for a relatively important site. We are still working on identifying the site and time periods, as well as confirming the function of some objects of box n°3, and should soon reach satisfying conclusions.
Many thanks for all your hard work recording, photographing, and researching this material, Dalva!