Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Lithic Artefact (PaMELA) database

Wessex Archaeology, Roger M. Jacobi, 2014

Data copyright © Wessex Archaeology, Dr Roger M. Jacobi unless otherwise stated

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Wessex Archaeology, Roger M. Jacobi (2014) Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Lithic Artefact (PaMELA) database [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

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Drawing of a macehead

Roger Jacobi is perhaps best-remembered by those with a general (rather than specialist) interest in the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods as the author of the Mesolithic chapters of many of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) regional syntheses of the mid-1970s and early 1980s; the formulator of the "other" microlith typology; and (perhaps) as a compiler of the Gazetteer of Mesolithic Sites in England and Wales (Wymer 1977: CBA Research Report 20).

That volume has remained the most widely available and accessible published data source for the Mesolithic period in Britain, serving as a starting point for much research into the period in England and Wales, be that curatorial, academic, amateur or otherwise. The report took many contributors eight years to compile; the published Gazetteer a distillation of the main data which were originally kept in a card index, arranged by county and parish and later entered onto the National Monuments Record (NMR).

The compilers and editors of the Gazetteer acknowledged that the report had deficiencies: uneven coverage (both geographical and typological), uncertain data sources, lack of access to private or poorly stored museum collections, etc. The Gazetteer is now severely out of date. In particular, the huge increase in fieldwork following the introduction of Planning Policy Guidance 16 (PPG16) in 1990 led to a very large increase in the number of known sites and find spots.

Over the course of his professional life Jacobi visited museums and private collections across the country, in effect maintaining and extending the card index begun for the CBA Gazetteer. The resulting archive consists of a card index of find spots and other information which Jacobi recorded from the various collections which he visited over many years. When consideration began to be given to a new survey to update and replace the CBA Gazetteer, it was acknowledged that a primary source of data for such a survey would be this unique archive. Securing this archive was identified as a priority in itself. Consequently English Heritage provided funding for Wessex Archaeology to assess, preserve and present the information contained in the card index.

At the outset of the project there was only one complete copy of the index in existence, at that time kept at Jacobi's home. If this were to have been lost, the cost of its recompilation would have been inestimable and, indeed, the task might have only been possible in part. Consequently, the first task was to create a ‘back-up’ of the cards in a digital format. The PaMELA (Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Lithic Artefact) database is the outcome of that undertaking.

The PaMELA database consists of two main parts: a literal digital transcription of Jacobi's card index (the Jacobi Archive); and a searchable database with typological and chronological keys (the Colonisation of Britain database). These are more fully described in the Overview.