The worked flints by John Bateman

This report describes the struck flint from both field walking (January 1993) and excavation (July - August 1993; July 1995). The greater quantity of flint from the field collection area against the smaller number from the excavation is due, to a large extent, to the differences in total area. A total of 1465 struck flints were recovered, 1310 from the field collecting and 155 from the excavation.


Field flint derived from underlying chalk bedrock is freely available but this material is liable to be frost shattered and not easily worked. Two main sources of flint raw material have been referred to by Manby (1988). These are the solid layers and beds of flint contained within the Lower Chalk of the Yorkshire Wolds. This dense, mottled grey flint is very brittle and is of little use for tool manufacture. Nodules of flint also occur and are more easily flaked; but both nodules and layered flint near to the surface may have suffered from Devensian periglacial conditions, making the flint difficult to knap. Mining for flint not affected by frost action is unlikely in the Yorkshire Wolds region due to the hardness of the chalk beds.

A second and probably more fruitful source of flint can be found in the glacial tills of the East coast from Flamborough to Holderness: flint boulders and smaller stones can be found on the coastal beaches. This flint often lacks the chalk cortex, having instead a water smoothed grey skin. The colour of this flint varies but is often darker grey than the Wolds flint.


The majority of the flint from Cottam (excavation and field collection), is a mottled or clouded grey due to differentially coloured flint embedded (maculose). Both Wolds flint and till deposited beach flint is represented. Individual struck flakes or tools cannot be dated with any degree of accuracy; the material probably covers a long cultural episode from the Mesolithic through to the Bronze Age. The industry of the site lacks diversity, the main category tool being scrapers (77), points/arrowheads (8), and miscellaneous 'tools' (5). Apart from the bifacially worked arrowheads and some adequately formed scrapers, the majority of the flint present comes from poor quality blank material; much of this is limited in size.

The excavation material comprised:

Total struck flakes155
Chalk cortex 21
Pebble skin29

Flake chips25%
Core waste2%

It can be seen that blades form a very small part of the industry.

The material collected during field walking comprised:

Total struck flakes1310

Flakes and flake chips 69%
Blades 22%
Waste 5%
Core waste 3%

In general terms the excavation and field collection materials are probably from the same industrial background but considerable differences occur when looking at the spatial distribution. Blades are more clearly represented in the field collection but most of these are found north of the excavation area.

The Excavation assemblage

Only 155 struck flints were found: 126 from COT93 and a further 29 from COT95. Of these 8 are scrapers, 3 points, and 2 possibly miscellaneous tools. The majority occur in the general plough-soil (1000, 2000, 3000, 4000). This layer directly relates to the field collection horizon. Three scrapers were recovered from the excavation plough-soil.

It is likely that all excavated flint is residual, being mostly found in features with post-prehistoric associations. The exceptions possibly being a natural feature (1019) which yielded 2 flints, one of which was a scraper, and possibly the major pit or sunken structure (3027).

The Flints

The majority of the flint, both from the excavation and field collection, is of poor quality and is often derived from small nodule and pebble flint. This is born out by the size range of the debitage, waste and tool forms, and by the presence of chalk cortex and ‘pebble' skin on many flints. A broad chronological range of flint types is represented. Microlithic blades and flakes may be attributed to the later Mesolithic period, with finer blades and flakes continuing into the earlier Neolithic period, along with chisel arrowheads and scrapers. The Neolithic phase continues with leaf-shaped arrowheads, together with oblique forms towards the end of the period up to the Beaker phase. The latter phase heralds the arrival of the barbed and tanged arrowheads with the introduction of metals into Britain. It can be assumed that the less diagnostic majority of flint types from Cottam also follow a general chronological path, mirroring the arrowhead and microlithic blade forms.