Archaelogy in and around Groby
Flintstones ~ Article by
In the 1980s Groby Archaeology
Society were active in the parish, systematically fieldwalking
over the ploughed land (with the farmer's permission, of course)
to look for signs of human occupation or activity. By far the
oldest evidence that we found was a scatter of worked flints,
which turned up near Martinshaw Wood in 1983. I can well remember
the excitement of picking up these items from the soil, realising
that they have probably not been touched by anyone since the
Flint is a silica-rich rock which naturally
forms rounded nodules with a chalky outer coating or cortex.
Complete or broken nodules are commonly found in the clay soils
of the English Midlands. When a nodule is broken, a lustrous
grey inner surface is revealed, similar to glass but not quite
as shiny. The broken edges can be very sharp, a property that
did not escape the notice of Stone Age man. He "worked"
the natural flints into artefacts - knives, scrapers, arrowheads
and so on. They can be found more or less as they were abandoned,
thousands of years ago.
Some styles of flint arrowheads are
easily recognised as such, but most flint artefacts look (to
the untrained eye) hardly any different from natural fragments.
After all, many of the worked flints spotted by fieldwalkers
are surely the waste pieces chipped off in the process of making
the actual tool. The final product may well have been taken away
to be used or traded.
When flint nodules break naturally,
the fracture surface is flat or gently curved, smooth but dull.
But when a flint is struck hard (which is unlikely to occur in
nature) then it breaks in a different way. The shape of the fracture
surface is shaped like the shell of a mussel, strongly curved
near the point of impact (called the "bulb of percussion")
but more gently curved away from that point. The fracture surface
is often rippled, with a glassy finish. These features are difficult
to describe and illustrate, so they are best learned by handling
worked flints that have been identified by experts.
1) Scraper, possibly used for preparing
2) Three cores, the middle one showing well the striking platform
at the top. The core on the right shows ripples in some of the
3) A variety of flakes. The blade on the right shows secondary
working - tiny flakes taken off the edge.
To obtain long, blade-shaped pieces,
a flint knapper would first remove the cortex then fashion a
flat surface known as a "striking platform". Then a
series of blows around the edge of the striking platform would
cause long, "flakes" to detach from the "core",
leaving parallel flake scars. The Groby finds include a number
of cores and flakes. Some flakes have been further worked by
removing tiny flakes from their edges.
After examination by archaeologists
at the Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester, the style of working was
identified as Mesolithic, that's the Middle Stone Age, 10,000
- 3,500 bc. The lifestyle of Mesolithic people was hunting and
gathering. They had no agricultural land that tied them to one
place, so they moved around according to the season. Perhaps
the people who made these flints were following the migration
of large herbivorous animals through the forest, and had camped
here for a few days. Travelling light was a necessity, so I cannot
imagine them carrying many stone tools around with them. Knowing
that natural flint was easily found in stream and river beds,
they would surely have made tools on the spot when required.
Perhaps a successful hunting party had paused here to prepare
tools for scraping clean and cutting up a deer hide.
This collection of flints, about 60
in total, is at the Jewry Wall Museum, St Nicholas Circle, Leicester.
For further information on flint knapping
Archaeology of an ordinary Groby
Garden ~ Article by Paul
It came as quite a surprise to me 20 years ago to realise that
there were humans in Groby many thousands of years ago. The earliest
evidence is the 60 or so flint tools from the Mesolithic period
(12,000-4000 BC) found near Martinshaw wood in the early 1980's
and which are now in the Jewry wall museum. Anything earlier
will have been destroyed by glaciers as the ice age ended, incidentally
leaving Groby pool behind.
Such finds are rare, you need the landowners
permission to look and worse still, only an expert can identify
them. There is however a much easier way of finding ancient remains.
Go out into the garden! You're not likely to find another Groby
castle or many flints but more likely than not you will find
that most durable of man made material, pottery. Since time immemorial,
broken pots were thrown onto rubbish heaps and the heaps scattered
onto the land in order to make it more fertile. Presence of quantities
of pottery is accepted as evidence the land was farmed during
that period and also of trade.
The most difficult obstacle you face
is realising how common pottery is and then recognising the shape
as different from a stone. The best time to look is after rain,
preferably when the ground has been freshly dug. Wet soil tends
to fall off stone or pottery quite easily.
I've found perhaps a hundred pieces
of Roman, Saxon and Medieval pottery and a few prize pieces are
shown below. Of course they didn't look like this when I found
them. Clean each bit with an old toothbrush and look at it edge-on.
If the fabric inside is a different colour to the surface, it's
probably quite old pottery. Now look at the surface. If it's
shiny and any colour except red or green its probably more recent.
Throw it back and look at it again in a few hundred years!
There are many different types of pottery
but very roughly we tend to talk of the 3 commonest types as
Roman(43-410 A.D.), Medieval or modern (post 1500 A.D.)
If it has curved lines drawn on it and/or it's black, its probably
Roman. If its grey it could be Roman or medieval. If its sandy/brick
coloured it's probably medieval. Bright green can be medieval
or Roman. Shiny black pottery with purplish coloured patches
is usually Midland Purple from around 1500 and is regarded as
All these items have been found in Paul's
1, 2 Lead and copper glazed medieval
sandy ware wheel thrown jug base from AD1275.
3 Roman Black Burnished (BB1) pottery. This was army issue, probably
made under contract. The army insisted its troops used equipment
of a certain standard and issued it to them. The soldiers had
its cost deducted from their pay. This piece came from Poole
in Dorset and has curved 'pencil like' criss cross marks as decoration.
Very common, coarse, black and gritty and quite unlike modern
pottery. Roman Greyware. The commonest type of Roman pottery,
made throughout the Roman period. Used for storage and cooking
and sometimes has soot marks on it. Like Black Burnished it often
has criss cross markings.
5,6 Roman Samian. Highly polished magnificent pottery imported
from central Gaul, 120-200 AD ranked second only to silver. A
pattern is visible on 5. Lots of Samian was found during excavations
dating to when Boudicca burnt London. She thus kindly provided
a date (A.D. 60) for many designs of Samian.
7 Roman colour Coated beaker possibly a hunting cup with a stags
head though it also resembles an example of a Colchester beaker
depicting a chariot race The well preserved state of this indicates
the soil has not been ploughed extensively.
8 Roman Rusticated ware cooking pot. Very erratic raised surface
decoration in thin lines.
9,10. My pride and joy. Two pieces of coarse 12th century Saxo-Norman
pottery made in Stamford and of really awful quality! This is
very rare as unlike the well made and much earlier Roman material
it disintegrates rapidly on exposure to weathering. This is the
only Saxon pottery found in Groby ..so far. Note the very dark
internal fabric exposed on both pieces particularly 10.
For further reading - "The Landscape
of a Leicestershire Parish" 1984 by Steve Woodward.