Somerset Aggregates Lithics Assessment

Somerset County Council, 2008

Data copyright © Somerset County Council unless otherwise stated

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Primary contact

Hannah Firth
Archaeological Project Officer
Historic Environment Service
Somerset County Council
County Hall
Tel: 01823 320226
Fax: 01823 320229

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Somerset County Council (2008) Somerset Aggregates Lithics Assessment [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

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Somerset has a range of geological resources that have been used as aggregates both in the past and the present, including Carboniferous Limestone, Silurian Andesite, Devonian Sandstone, Triassic Pebble Beds, marine sands and the quaternary sand deposits known as the Burtle Beds. In 1996 the total output of aggregates from Somerset was 10.8 million tonnes.

Currently Somerset produces one sixth of the UK's aggregates, with the main extraction sites being located on the Mendip Hills to the north of the county. Other smaller scale extraction occurs on the Pebble Beds in the Vale of Taunton and Burtle Beds of central Somerset.

In 2005 English Heritage commissioned the Historic Environment Service of Somerset County Council to complete The Aggregate Landscape of Somerset: Predicting the Archaeological Resource. The project was funded by the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF) and represented a largely Historic Environment Record (HER) based assessment of the archaeological resource within six 'Character Areas' of past and present aggregate extraction. The project identified the assessment and analysis of un-catalogued lithic collections as one of the highest priorities for future research. Lithics are the most abundant element of the known material culture for the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. They also provide the most common and widely distributed evidence for human activity during the prehistoric periods.

The project focused on surface lithic collections recovered from the Mendip Hills and Burtle Beds aggregate character areas, as defined in The Aggregate Landscape of Somerset: Predicting the Archaeological Resource. The Mendip Hills are currently responsible for 90% of Somerset's crushed rock aggregate output. As the demand for aggregate within Southeast England continues and as three of the major Mendip quarries have already submitted plans for extensions it seems likely that this area will continue to play a significant role in the UK's aggregate production.

The digital archive

The digital archive currently consists of the following resources:

  • Firth, H. and Faxon, K. 2008: Somerset Aggregates Lithics Assessment (SALSA). Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund Project Number 5285. Somerset County Council Heritage Service. Unpublished Report.