3.5.2 Coarse Stone Artefacts

A variety of other larger stone cobble tools were utilised during the Mesolithic and form an overlooked yet important part of the period’s material culture. These were fashioned on locally derived materials and have a predominantly coastal distribution. The term course or cobble stone tools cover a variety of implements including elongated pebble tools, hammerstones, anvils, rubbing and grinding stones and bevel ended forms also made on bone.

The 9th millennium house sites of East Barns, East Lothian and Howick, Northumberland have both produced well-recorded assemblages of these artefacts though there is an apparent absence further up the coast at the sites of Cramond and Echline Fields. This perhaps reflects a differentiation of on-site activities between the sites of the upper Forth and those more exposed to the open sea such as East Barns and Howick.

photograph of five people at an excavation site. String has been used to denote square boundaries of the sites various sections.
East Barns Mesolithic house excavation by AOC Archaeology Group © East Lothian Council

The house site at East Barns, produced 21 coarse stone tools including 14 bevel ended pebbles made on elongated, waterworn pebbles of sandstone and fine-grained sedimentary rock.

The use of these artefacts has been well debated with proposed uses as limpet hammers (Grieve 1885, 57) or limpet scoops (Bishop 1914, 95), knapping tools (Breuil 1922: 267–71; Saville 2004: 191) and hide or plant working instruments (Foxon 1991, Finlayson 1995; 1998 and Griffiths and Bonsall 2001).  Jacobi (1980, 189) has associated bevel-edged tools in general with the dressing of seal skins, an attractive theory given the general locations in which these artefacts are found (Engl 2021, 67).

Other coarse stone artefacts found at East Barns included a small quartz knapping stone, cobble hammerstones, a burnisher, an anvil and an anvil/knocking stone. The majority of these can perhaps be associated with the on-site reduction of lithic material but their use in a variety of other activities, such as food processing, cannot be discounted (Engl and Gooder 2021).

Away from the coast the scatter sites of the central Tweed Valley have produced recurring surface finds of perforated hammerstones or ‘maceheads’ and waisted pebbles. These are both controversial artefact classes with uncertain associations to the Mesolithic.

The perforated hammerstones are thought to be early in date on the basis of typological parallels (Lacaille 1954) but as with many such artefacts have a variety of possible uses.

photograph of 4 rows of microlithics
Dryburgh microliths © Alan Saville

Waisted pebbles are made with flat, water rolled pebbles with notches located at the top or bottom of the pebble (Warren 2001, 154) giving rise to their possible use as line weights or net sinkers. These artefacts whatever their use are found in close association with large Mesolithic sites such as Dryburgh, Rink Farm and Springwood albeit with later material (Warren 2001 159).