They came, they saw, they traded. Welcome to the second in our series on the amazing artefacts and specimens of the Square and Compass museum, Worth Matravers. In this edition, Cath curates a tour of their newest display, an as-yet-unseen selection of some of Charlie’s favourites as well as a few very special recent finds.
Words by Cath Newman, images by Sally Maltby.
From edition 5
How do we know which parts of the Purbeck Limestone Plateau have seen ancient occupation? Because, just as we do, the inhabitants left their rubbish behind!
4000 years BC, a lads’ gathering in the Purbeck countryside would not have resulted in empty lager cans and spent disposable barbecues discarded in an otherwise picturesque field, yet their temporary camp would have retained traces of fire damage in the earth, animal bones from their barbecue and a few lost or even abandoned tools from the hunt. The more an area was visited, the more was left behind and, once settled, a rich seam of ‘rubbish’ accrued.
…still capable of inflicting a nasty wound
Thousands of years later, these once everyday objects hold us in thrall. They link us directly to ancestors who dealt with life on a far more visceral basis. Put simply: if you wanted meat, you had to first kill a beast, then dismember it; for clothing, shoes and bedding you must skin, treat and cure hides; for fire and shelter, you could fell trees – but before any of this, tools must be made.
The majority of the objects in the new case at The Square and Compass Museum were found in ploughed fields in and around Worth Matravers. They would have been in almost daily use approximately 4500 years ago. They are beautifully crafted and, despite the ravages of time and wear, most of them can still do the jobs they were made for – so long ago.
These local-chalk flint knives were found in Worth Matravers. They vary in size according to the tasks for which they were intended. Thin flakes of flint were struck from a block with a knapping stone. The flake would be shaped and sharpened into a blade at a preferred size and thickness. They are still capable of inflicting a nasty wound!
BRONZE AGE AXE & KNIFE FRAGMENTS
The new technology 3500 years ago but it never had the staying power of flint. These two fragments of cutting-edge Bronze Age tools were made approximately 1500BC and found in Kingston, although they wouldn’t quite cut it today.
Charlie’s pride and joy! After only 38 years of dedicated field walking, he found the first of these arrowheads in 2012. Just ten days later, another one caught his eye on the footpath from Renscombe to Chapman’s Pool. Then a third came to light in a ploughed field near Worth. Yet another has turned up since we completed the new cabinet! Manufactured from local flint, these arrowheads display a delicate craftsman’s touch – yet would have delivered severe debilitation or death to roe and red deer, wild pigs, elk, aurochs (wild cattle) and small mammals. They were crafted, and in use, from the Mesolithic-Neolithic period up to the early Bronze Age.
MESOLITHIC AXE HEADS
a hefty chunk of stone for tough jobs.
The semi-polished, splayed axe head (on the right) is a later model and made from an imported material: West Dorset chert. Somehow it found its way to St Aldhelm’s Head, then into Charlie’s pocket; now on display for all to marvel at.
These pebbles were used for small jobs such as grinding and hammering. The centre stone is a pestle which would have been used in conjunction with a quern stone for grinding cereal. It seems we became farmers in approximately 4500BC. These pebbles are notable because they are of West Dorset and Mendip stone, transported at least 60 miles – so people were getting out and about, meeting each other and swapping rocks!
The grinding stone would have been used to turn grain into flour in the shallow bowl of a quern stone. Charlie is holding the stone to the light so that it clearly shows the evenness of wear on both sides of a sharpish edge (the stone, not Charlie).