The finds and artefacts from the Neolithic period comprise worked flints and stone objects. The small incised stones identified as ‘sunstones’ comparable to the ‘solstens’ of Denmark and similar stones from the British Isles are identified as neolithic. They await professional academic assessment.
The polished stone finds which came from near the bottom of a ‘stone hole’, which probably held a standing stone erected in the Early Bronze Age, are interpreted as a deposit made after the standing stone was removed in the later Iron Age of earlier ritual objects . They comprise unworked beach cobbles and partly worked cobbles including a probable ceremonial mace. They are identified as Late Neolithic stones ritually deposited in the surrounding earth packing when erecting a standing stone over springs at the head of the sacred pool in the Early Bronze Age. The earliest water features were probably natural springs, pools and marshy places near the top of the hill, where the Water Shrine evolved over a period of 2000 years or more. The earliest man made water feature that has been identified is a Neolithic small rock cut ‘well’ which collected water fed along a ‘feed’ cut into the ground leading from seeps of water issuing from the outcropping Old Red Sandstone bedrock. The standing stone was erected over a principal spring which had previously fed what is currently identified as a Bronze Age water boiling trough for cooking. Thus the Neolithic artefacts which were found in the revetting of the standing stone, which was contemporary with making an oval shaped pool, were most likely first deposited in the springs and pools at a time broadly contemporary with the rock cut ‘well’. They may have been re deposited in the Bronze Age and again in the Iron Age in recognition of their sacred status. They are due to be studied by Professor Josh Pollard and his academic colleagues at Southampton University, with the aim of establishing their geology and likely points of origin as well as their purpose and period.
Neolithic figurines are extremely rare and this small worked stone may have a more prosaic interpretation. However it has the female attributes seen in Neolithic figurines. It has been eroded by water and the depth of detail is lost. It came from Pool 4a in the east bank slope near several other small stone objects e.g. H.29 Head 29, which may be a Neolithic votive object https://littledeanhall.wordpress.com/celtic-heads-gallery-2/. Small objects in Anatolia are identified as idoIs. If N.1 is a female figurine the head has broken away. Female attributes can be identified with possible hands clasping the base of the abdomen. Legs on female figurines are typically short and lacking feet. The rear of the ‘figurine’ has the legs divided as does the front with wide hips
This artefact is paralleled by several others from the Littledean ite with distinct abraded ‘waists’. They may actually be decorated loomweights. We hope academics at Southampton Universioty will be able to categorise these objects for what they are.
VIEW LARGER IMAGES OF THE SUNSTONES AT BOTTOM OF PAGE
This O.R.Sandstone broken flag with etched “fields” came from the water borne silts in the middle section of spring fed water channel, which is identified as a Bronze Age water boiling trough for cooking.
This green stone polished pendant axe was buried vertically in the clay of a shallow pit, wide edge downwards, below several large sandstones
Recovered from Pool 4a this appears to be a hammer stone and has significant percussion marks at one end
Whether this was a battle mace or ceremonial mace head has not yet been established. The other half has not been recovered. It was deposited in the silt at the north end of Pool 4a and appears to have been deliberately broken (ritually killed). The broken drilled socket hole clearly shows the ribs left by the process of using a wooden ‘bow drill’ with water and sand.
This artefact is particularly extraordinary as it has what appears to be a salmon pecked in outline on one side. It came from within the wall of the vertical cut for a standing stone Stone Hole 1, sealed with the earth rammed backfill. Its context is tied to the positioning of the standing stone and, given its near pristine condition, is probably Bronze Age in date. It is currently identified as either a ceremonial mace ‘deifying’ the salmon in the river Severn or a ceremonial net weight designed as a votive offering. It may represent one of the earliest ritual objects to propitiate the dearth and plenty of the most iconic fresh water fish known to man. Study and analysis of this artefact will be at the forefront of the Littledean finds archive.
Quartz pebbles are well attested as ritual objects around the world in all cultures. The Celtic world has a particular attachment to white quartz pebbles as ritual objects. This remarkable large pebble or cobble may have come originally from a large conglomerate boulder. It may also have been a beach cobble. It was placed with the deposit of polished and partly worked cobbles in the base of Stone Hole 1 after a standing stone had been removed and is identified as a ‘structured deposit’ commencing a period during the Iron Age when the Stone Hole was filled in several stages with artefacts. There are deliberate markings which may be images of half moon on the one side and stars on the other. It could be a lunar stone connected with the lunar cycle and the tides. It is another extraordinary artefact to test the specialist minds of many disciplines and anthropological studies.
This was the first polished stone artefact to be lifted from the deposit in Stone Hole 1. A group of archaeologists and specialists witnessed this event in October 2018 and Anthony Beeson was the first to exclaim “Oh my goodness its a ceremonial mace”. The hard blue stone must have taken many long hours to drill into to take a staff and it may not have been finished as the hole only goes part way through. possibly it is a symbolic representation. It may have originally been deposited with a shaft attached.
Same deposit, This blue stone cobble is referred to as a trading blank. Stones such as this brought from many miles away are considered to be objects traded with other communities or social groups for something that group had of value in return.
It was with the same deposit
Same deposit. On first impressions the Littledean archaeological group identified this artefact as a ceremonial axe. Professor Josh Pollard points out it is not made in the way that Neolithic axe heads are shaped. It is probably a symbolic ritual object which may represent something other than an axe. It has a well defined ground blade like edge and is highly polished.
Same deposit. Another partly worked highly polished blue stone which fits the hand well for use as a chopping stone, but again probably symbolic.
Projecting from the west wall and fill of Stone Hole 1 this blue stone object differs from the others. It appears to have a grinding surface on the flat side and may have been used as a quern rubber.
Same deposit. Possibly another blank or a hand grinder seems more likely as it is coarse and unpolished.
Same deposit. This is broadly similar to the ‘rolling pin’ hand quern grinder used with a saddle quern.
The diversity of objects in the deposit at the base of Stone Hole 1 may reflect a broad social construct of life tools. The objects do not appear to have any military function and may possibly be equated to clearance and agriculture. We hope some solutions will become clearer when these artefacts are studied at Southampton.
One of two unworked blue stone cobbles which may be traded blanks. They were in the same layer as the drilled sandstone net weight and within the earth embankment which held the standing stone in place.
This broken light brown coloured stone cobble may have been a small polishing stone for finishing polished axes and other objects. Same layer and context as N.31.