Raw Material Studies (continued)

Procurement sites

Procurement sites, where raw material was either collected or quarried, represent a particular complex of issues. To a degree, procurement sites form part of raw material exchange sensu largo, representing one end of the chain from source to end user (above), but they also need to be examined and analysed in their own right, where the technologies applied to extract the raw material, as well as the socio-economical organization behind the actual collection or quarrying processes, are discussed.

At present, few prehistoric procurement sites are known from Scotland. An undated, but probably post Mesolithic, quartz quarry from Lewis has been discussed in the archaeological literature (Ballin 2004). Chert quarry pits are known from southern Scotland (Warren 2007, 146), but these features are generally undated. However, the fact that some are associated with narrow blades suggests a date in the Late Mesolithic or Early Neolithic periods. At Early Mesolithic An Corran, baked mudstone may have been procured from a vein immediately above the site (Hardy et al. forthcoming). Rùm bloodstone was probably procured from the scree at the foot of Bloodstone Hill, and actual quarries (even in the simple form of quarry pits) have not yet been located (Clarke & Griffiths 1990). Hornfels (Group XXIV) was quarried at Creag na Caillich, Perthshire, for axeheads (Edmonds et al. 1993), and felsite (Group XXII) was quarried in North Roe, Shetland, for axeheads and Shetland knives (Ballin forthcoming a; b). Other stone axeheads from Scotland have been sourced to quarries in Cumbria (tuff – Group VI) and Northern Ireland (porcellanite – Group IX) (Bradley & Edmonds 1993; Cooney & Mandal 1998).

Generally, this field needs more attention in the form of:

  • Examination of existing archaeological assemblages to allow the production of raw material distribution maps and fall-off curves;
  • Comparison of archaeological samples with geological samples (in cooperation with geologists) to safely define and identify raw materials; and
  • Field work, to locate/inspect potential source locations/quarries (see final section). This, in particular, ought to be given some priority.

click to enlarge
Bipolar cores in local and ballast flint from the production of gunflints – Dun Eistean, Lewis, Western Isles (Ballin 2011).

Bipolar cores in local and ballast flint from the production of gunflints – Dun Eistean, Lewis, Western Isles (Ballin 2011).