This rare conglomerate sandstone axe grinding boulder was re used in the foundations of the apse of the Roman Temple. It is possibly part of the remnants of a prehistoric structure which was re used in the ‘aedicula’ of the Roman Temple. Other large blocks of stone can also be identified as pollisoirs. These stones are definitively Neolithic and were used for grinding and polishing/finishing stone axes. As such they are the earliest major artefacts on the site in use at least 4500 years ago.

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.

In October 2018 polished stone finds were discovered near the bottom of Stone Hole 1 (SH1), which probably held a standing stone erected in the Early Bronze Age. The polished stones are interpreted as a deposit of earlier ritual objects made after the standing stone was removed in the later Iron Age. They comprise unworked beach cobbles and partly worked cobbles including a probable ceremonial mace. They are identified as Late Neolithic stones which were first ritually deposited in the surrounding earth packing, when a standing stone was erected over the principal spring in the Early Bronze Age. The earliest water features were probably natural springs, pools and marshy places near the top of the hill, where a sacred locus evolved over a period of thousands of years before a shrine was erected in the early Roman period. The standing stone erected over the principal spring stood at the east end of a shallow east to west orientated water channel which fed into a north south water channel. The Neolithic ‘sunstones’ and ‘spider’ stones which were found in the bank revetting, which held the standing stone, were most likely first deposited in the spring prior to the erection of standing stones in the early Bronze Age. They may have been re deposited in the Bronze Age and again in the Iron Age in recognition of their sacred status. Professor Josh Pollard of Southampton University has offered to study the artefacts with his academic colleagues, with the aim of establishing their geology and likely points of origin as well as their purpose and period.

More recently discovered artefacts for dating the erection of Standing Stone 1 (SH1) were made in July and August 2020 by Robin Holley, a archaeological specialist with a life time of experience, particularly with the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. In July targetting the paved floor over the spring, which had acted as stone pads for the standing stone, Robin found the spectacular dolomite perforated macehead centrally placed and sealed below the stone pads. In the silt around the macehead was a handful of charred cereal grains typifying a fertility deposit. In the north wall of the stone hole Robin also found a dolomite bowl (cup) which was possibly for burning incense. Then in August he identified a pit to the south edge of the stone hole which had the small dolomite stone spatula (spoon) with chevron markings, also with charred cereal grains. These three objects are, excluding one other very small object yet to be identified, the only dolomite stone objects from the site. They provide definitive identification for the late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age and we hope to obtain dating from Carbon 14 dating in due course.

N.1 Neolithic 1 Old Red Sandstone figurine?

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 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

N.1A Neolithic 1A Old Red Sandstone rear of figurine?
N.2 Neoloithic 2 Idol or decorated loomweight?

This artefact is paralleled by several others from the Littledean site with distinct abraded ‘waists’. They may actually be decorated loom weights. We hope academics at Southampton University will be able to categorise these objects for what they are.

N.2A Neolithic 2A Rear of Idol or figurine?
N.3 Neolithic 3 figurine?
N.3A Neolithic 3A figurine?
N.4 Neolithic 4 Idol?

This object in striated purple and green sandstone has ribbed striations. The abstract head and shoulders are features of Anatolian idols.

N.4A Idol?
N.5 Neolithic? 5 Unidentified
N.5A Neolithic? 5A Unidentified
N.6 Neolithic 6 Idol?

There is insufficient evidence to place this purple and yellow green striated stone object other than its context which suggests it is Neolithic or Bronze Age. It could be an Iron Age whetstone or a fragment of coloured Roman floor tile.

N.6.6 Neolithic 6.6 Idol?

The same applies to this piece as N.6 above.

N.7 Neolithic 7 Loomweight?

This object is most likely a loom weight and has cuts possibly caused by the loom threads (N.7B below)

N.7A Neolithic 7A Loomweight?
N.7B Neolithic 7B Loomweight?
N.8 Neolithic 8 Sunstone 8.8

This may be a circular stone disk for a pot lid as it does not have the incised detail of sunstones.

N.8 Neolithic 8 Sunstone 8

This is a fragment of a sunstone with traces of circular incisions and rays.

N.9 Neolithic 9 Sunstone

This sunstone has divisions referred to in the literature as ‘fields’ and ladder symbols

N.10 Neolithic 10 Sunstone 10

This example has concentric rings around a central circular motif with cross. The edges of the circular tablet are ground smooth. There are parallels with the gold discs from Ireland and elsewhere.

N.11 Neolithic 11 Sunstone 11

This sunstone is unusual as it is only partially etched on the stone.

N.12 Neolithic 12 Sunstone 9

A stone disc with field symbols.

N.13 Neolithic 13 Sunstone

This circular stone disc is like N.8 and may be a pot lid. The incisions may represent standing grain stem with ears of grain.

N.14 Neolithic 14 Sunstone

This example may have parallels with the stones dubbed ‘spider’ stones on the island of Bornholm in Denmark, dated to the Neolithic period. Alternatively it is a solar disc, possibly representing the sun at its brightest.

N.15 Neolithic 15 Sunstone

Another tablet with complex incisions possibly representing the effects of a sun bursting from the clouds.

N.16 Neolithic 16 Sunstone

Small stones with chequer pattern found near the base of Stone Hole 1. The one on the left with a central sun flare.

N.17 Neolithic 17 Sunstone

Ladder patterns etched into a flat sandstone which appears to have been used as a polishing stone.

N.19 Neolithic 19 Etched stone

N.19 and N.20 came from the surfacing around the centre of the stone ‘altar’ area at the west end of the site, later absorbed into the Roman structure. Three sherds of Bronze Age pottery and the only sherd of late Neolithic pottery came from associated contexts; the only Neolithic sherd found so far from the site.

N.20 Neolithic 20 Inscribed stone with field patterns


N.21 Neolithic 21 Inscribed stone with field patterns

This O.R.Sandstone broken flag with etched “fields” came from the water borne silts in the middle section of spring fed water channel.

N.22 Neolithic 22 Small pendant axe drilled for neck thong

This green stone polished pendant axe was buried vertically in the clay of a shallow pit, wide edge downwards, below several large sandstones, one of which had polishing hollows and incised sharpening grooves. Maybe the axe was sharpened on the stone before burial as the cutting edge was devoid of chips and bruising and remarkably sharp. Professor Josh Pollard suggested the stone may be from the south of France.

N.23 Neolithic 23 Beach cobble hammer stone with percussion wear

Recovered from Pool 4a this appears to be a hammer stone and has significant percussion marks at one end

N.44 Neolithic 24 Broken granite mace head

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.

N.24A Neolithic 24A Broken granite mace head showing drilling ridges
N.25 Neolithic 25 Old Red Sandstone fishing net weight or macehead possibly Neolithic or Bronze Age

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. It is culturally of major significance for the lower Severn river basin.

N.25A Neolithic 25A Old Red Sandstone net weight salmon pecked on side
N.26 Neolithic 26 Large quartz cobble with possible half moon symbol

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.

N.27 Neolithic 27 Blue stone cobble ceremonial rounded piriform mace head

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 it’s 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.

N.27A Neolithic 27A Blue stone cobble ceremonial mace
N.28 Neolithic 28 Blue stone polished cobble

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.

N.29A Neolithic 29A Polished brown stone cobble with ground edge to wide end

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.

N.30 Neolithic 30 Polished blue stone cobble with worked edge at wide end

Same deposit. Another partly worked highly polished blue stone which fits the hand well for use as a chopping stone, but again probably symbolic.

N.31 Neolithic 31 Polished blue stone cobble

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.

N.31A Neolithic 31A Polished blue stone cobble with flat scored base
N.32 Neolithic 32 Blue stone hand quern grinder?

Same deposit. Possibly another blank or a hand grinder seems more likely as it is coarse and unpolished.

N.33 Neolithic 33 Blue stone hand quern grinder?

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.

N.34 Neolithic 34 Polished bluestone cobble

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.

N.35 Neolithic 35 A broken flat beach cobble

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.

N.1 Neolithic 1 Solsten “sunstone”
N.2 Neolithic 2 Solsten “sunstone”
N.3 Neolithic 3 Solsten “sunstone”
N.4 Neolithic 4 Solsten “sunstone”
N.5 Neolithic 5 Solsten “sunstone”
N.6 Neolithic 6 Solsten “sunstone”
N.7 Neolithic 7 Solsten “sunstone”
N.8 Nelithic 8 Solsten “sunstone”
N.17 Neolithic 17 Solsten “sunstone”
N.19 Neolithic 19 Old Red sandstone Inscribed flag
N.20 Neolithic 20 Old Red Sandstone I
N.11 Neolithic 11 Solsten “sunstone”
N.12 Neolithic 12 Solsten “sunstone”
N.13 Neolithic 13 Solsten “sunstone