Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Oyster arrowhead ?

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Oyster arrowhead ?

    This week I was searching for new Mesolithic/Neolithic sites/scatters, with some success. Amongst the blades and cores I found this piece of oyster shell, which seems to scream projectile point.
    I am accustomed to finding oyster shells on roman sites, but this field had zero signs of roman occupation and that would be unusual, as they always left pottery signs on their sites.
    It is located near Salisbury in England, some 30 miles inland from the sea, so no sea connection. Nor is it fossilised.
    The shape is as found, but if it is a fluke due to plough damage then I would not be surprised; but the notched base to the single barb seems to suggest fabrication rather then plough impact ?
    I have never heard of shell points before, but then we don't see any bone or antler harpoon points where I live/collect. They were ubiquitous during the Mesolithic and yet they simply don't survive in our soil conditions; not that they were not used here. So it could be that shell points were used and in most soils have perished !
    Any information/thoughts ....cheers Nick

    Click image for larger version

Name:	DSC_0135 [replaced].jpg
Views:	309
Size:	121.7 KB
ID:	217810




  • #2
    Hey Nick....I think its just a broken shell
    I Have Never Met A Rock I Didn\'t Like

    Comment


    • #3
      We call them "yersters" down south.  It looks like just a broken shell to me.

      Comment


      • #4
        I agree-- it's just a shucker. My beaches are loaded with oyster shells and some times they cause me to pause-- scraper, blade? Nope-- just another faker. Phewy!
        Child of the tides

        Comment


        • #5
          Could it have been something on a necklace?

          Comment


          • #6
            This was not found by the sea; 30 miles inland and in an area where there is no dumping of modern human waste. 
            I have been metal detecting and flint collecting from the fields for 40 miles in any direction and never seen anything like this except on Roman sites.  But Roman sites are very very easy to tell....they are covered in pottery shards.  This site is clean other than (wide blade) flints, suggesting early Mesolithic occupation; no microliths or adze sharpening flakes. There is no way this shell could have arrived in this field other than human activity.
            I am not yet convinced it is a valid point, either ceremonial or functional, but it is most certainly not natural deposition.  Nor is it associated with any Roman evidence.
            I have been trying to find some work on shell artefacts from Mesolithic Britain, but nothing is coming up on the web.  It could be that the shape is purely a fluke, but its arrival on this field is not natural; which still leaves the option of intentional shaping (for whatever reason)
            But thanks for the thoughts and suggestions so far.  Its an unusual one for me....a mystery to be solved 

            Comment


            • #7
              i know farmers sometimes chuck old shells in the yard/pen area for chickens to peck at.and here in new england farmers sometimes spread crushed shells into their fields. i found this, http://www.gardenista.com/posts/oyst...-in-the-garden maybe that helps explain things?
              call me Jay, i live in R.I.

              Comment


              • #8
                OnewiththewilD wrote:

                i know farmers sometimes chuck old shells in the yard/pen area for chickens to peck at.and here in new england farmers sometimes spread crushed shells into their fields. i found this, http://www.gardenista.com/posts/oyst...-in-the-garden maybe that helps explain things?
                I like the suggestion.  It is not a practice that occurs here, well certainly not in southern England. 
                The field I found the item on is at least two miles from the nearest house and that is a farm.  The area is very rural with large fields and a few villages dotted around the countryside.  The fields are very clean, by which I mean there is no human waste, no litter, nothing modern.  I guess I should have painted a better picture of the location  (Y)
                Other than lots of natural erosion derived flint, the occasional shotgun cartridge and prehistoric worked flint, the soil is empty.
                In some parts of the UK, in Victorian times, they dumped human sewage and drain waste on the fields.  This was a practice used, for example, by the city of Glasgow in Scotland.  They had special trains that transported the waste to the countryside and from there the slurry was spread on the fields.  I found a gold half sovereign (Queen Victoria) on such a field (metal detector find).  But this was not a practice in my area of southern England, where pipelines into the sea was (and still is) the way of disposing of human sewage.
                There is a processing plant near Andover - about 30 miles north - which produces human waste slurry for fertiliser, but it is heavily processed and contains no rubbish, let alone objects the size of the shell.  Not that the slurry in question is employed in the area of Wiltshire that I found the item.
                It is human derived and not from any modern human action.  Besides which the introduction of shells for soil conditioning would have shown numerous particles and this find was entirely isolated.
                On coastal prehistoric human sites there are well documented piles of spent oyster shells, called middens (also the Scottish word for rubbish).  There are lots of  such Mesolithic deposits around the coast of Scotland. 
                There can be absolutely no doubt that Mesolithic hunters ate oysters along the English south coast and during the period in question sea levels have risen considerably, as the land-mass has bounced back from the weight of the ice; Scotland has risen and southern England (ice free) has sunk.  So early coastal middens in Southern England are now submerged. 
                Our current coastal line was fixed by around 3500 years bp, by which time we were into late Mesolithic technology, reflecting increasingly dense forestation and a change in game species, from open grassland species. 
                The site I found the shell is characterised by broad blades and no adze (or sharpening fragments), so I am going to suggest it is an early site.  The coast at that time would have been more than 60 miles away, possibly even over 100 miles away.  Transporting shells- as food - over such distances, on foot, would have been impossible in a Mesolithic landscape; the food would have been spoiled long before they could transport it over that distance.
                So I am still left with the puzzle of how it could have got there and more crucially, why  :dunno:
                The questions that are in my mind are:
                If it is a point then would it be viable ?
                If it is not a viable point then could it be some form of adornment ?
                I doubt a shell point would be effective against deer or other large mammals, but would it be any better for fish ?
                There would have been - and still are to this day - plenty of trout in the rivers around the location.  Historically the rivers also held great numbers of annual salmon runs, but these days they are scarce (due to modern over-fishing).  I think it could perform as a viable fish point, but the fashion of the time was for barbed harpoon points fabricated from antler or bone.
                I think both are unlikely, but the latter (adornment) is less likely as there is no precedent for such objects, that I have read of, from that period.  But I am happy to be corrected.  And of course it could just be a singular piece of rubbish from another period, e.g. Roman.  and the shape entirely random coincidence.   
                Cheers
                Nick

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hi Nick
                  I don’t see any particular mystery here. If you Google “oyster shell salisbury wiltshire”, you’ll see lots of references to shells turning up in archaeological contexts even further inland than 30 miles. You can’t confirm the stratigraphy as Mesolithic. Mostly these finds date from Saxon times through to the 18th/19th Centuries. Oysters were plentiful and cheap before modern over-exploitation. I remember seeing a document (at the Museum of London, I think) which detailed the contractural terms for Irish labourers employed on major construction work in London. Board and lodgings were included but there was a stipulation that workers “shall not be compelled to eat oysters more than three times a week” or something similar. Oysters were cheap fare… not a delicacy for posh folk.
                  In addition to transport from the coast for food, in early times layers of oyster shell were frequently used to improve the alignment of masonry from Mediaeval times onwards. This is from the Wiltshire Archaeological -and- Natural History Magazine of 1935, edited by Canon E.H. Goddard:
                  Oyster Shells used in Masonry of the 13th Century in Salisbury Cathedral.
                  A new door has been cut through the wall of the north choir aisle of Salisbury Cathedral, opposite the Audley Chantry. It was formally opened for use on Feb. 2nd, 1935. Mr. H. Messenger, Diocesan Surveyor, writes that he asked the masons employed in cutting through the wall whether they had found any oyster shells, and they at once produced one. “That part of the  Cathedral cannot be later than 1230 or so. The shell is very flat, not like the coarse shells I got from the top of the spire some years ago, or those in the walls of the Harnham gate of the Close. And here is an interesting detail, the shells were in the vertical joints only. I always thought shells were used in the beds, to even up the courses and save the mason's labour in making two fair faces, but I do not see the object in putting shells in the vertical joints of such wonderfully exact masonry as that in our Cathedral. The shells were well in from the face, so that their presence was not suspected from the outside. The interest of the discovery lies in the fact that, following the contention of the late Mr, C. E. Pouting, it had been commonly held that oyster shells were never used in this way in buildings earlier than the 14th century. Here however is work, as to the date of which there can be no doubt, in which they are found to have been used before the middle of the 13th century.”

                  You may argue that there are no masonry constructions in the vicinity, but you have no idea what kinds of village industries or supply routes may have existed in former times to support construction work going on in more populated areas nearby. There are all kinds of reasons why a broken piece of shell might be where you found it.
                  Although there are plenty of Mesolithic oyster shell middens (especially in Scotland), they are – as you say – associated with coastal areas (not neglecting the fact that today’s coast is not necessarily the same as that which existed in Mesolithic times). I’ve not seen any evidence for anything other than use as a food source in Mesolithic or Neolithic times and don’t know of any confirmed artefacts or even “possible” arrowheads. Your shell also doesn’t have an appearance which suggests thousands of years of burial.
                  You may be interested in this article, which seeks to explain why a large kitchen midden in Denmark full of oyster shells was devoid of any artefacts suitable for opening them. It seems they simply heated them up:
                  http://www.archeolog-home.com/pages/...ithic-way.html
                  I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thanks Roger.
                    Saxon waste would be possible, as i would not be expecting any volume of pottery to be around; so cannot discount it.
                    The roads in the area could have shifted over time, although the topography does not lend itself to an obvious road route and established roads are very clear, with associated 'sunken lanes'.  There are no signs of roads in the area of the field, which would have affected the current field boundaries (possibly).
                    The site is clear of the published Roman Roads and there are no signs of even domestic roman roads in the fields around (zero roman pottery).
                    There are also no medieval pottery shards in the field or surrounding fields.  It is a very quiet area indeed.
                    The nearest farm is some distance away, but could have evolved from a medieval manor and thus the shell could therefore have been field spread from the domestic waste. But I would have hoped to see some pottery to accompany field spreading of domestic waste. 
                    But it could equally have been a spot used by seasonal farm workers from any one of many periods.  And as you say, oysters were once the food of the poor.
                    As to age of the shell, I have found lots on roman sites that were no more degraded; yet have found others on Tudor sites which were extremely frail and crumbled in the hand.  It is down to the soil acidity or alkalinity, and exposure to air~ water as to how long they survive and in what state.  This site is well drained and sandy.
                    I agree with the overall opinion and will regard it simply as domestic rubbish; but will retain it for curiosity   
                    Cheers
                    Nick

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      ..
                      Attached Files

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Hi Artur, and welcome to the forum.

                        Interesting pictures, but most of us here are not fluent in Russian, so it's difficult to make any sensible comments. Presumably you are showing pictures which demonstrate that shells were used to produce points for projectiles. There is no doubt about that... only doubt about the item originally posted here.

                        If you can supply the reference (author or publication) for those pictures then perhaps we can get to the original source and translate the text so we know what we are looking at.



                        Привет, Артур, и добро пожаловать на форум.

                        Интересные картинки, но большинство из нас здесь плохо говорит по-русски, поэтому толковые комментарии делать сложно. Предположительно вы показываете картинки, которые демонстрируют, что снаряды использовались для создания точек для снарядов. В этом нет никаких сомнений ... сомневаюсь только в изначально размещенном здесь элементе.

                        Если вы можете предоставить ссылку (автора или публикацию) на эти изображения, то, возможно, мы сможем перейти к первоисточнику и перевести текст, чтобы мы знали, на что смотрим.

                        I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          1.

                          Martin Callanan
                          Out of the Ice
                          Glacial Archaeology in central Norway
                          Thesis for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor
                          Trondheim, October 2014
                          Norwegian University of Science and Technology
                          Faculty of Humanities
                          Department of Historical Studies

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            2. р 165
                            http://www.spsl.nsc.ru/FullText/konf...-middleage.pdf

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Thanks Artur

                              The first picture you posted had the original caption “Arrows with shell points recovered from the Løpesfonna snow patch” and relates to discoveries of Neolithic and Bronze Age Items in the Norwegian Alps. Callanan’s paper provides this explanatory text:

                              Two of the arrows have projectiles of a material never before discovered in Scandinavia. The arrows consist of shell points with associated fragmented shafts (Fig. 6.2). The shell points were compared to a modern study collection and have been visually identified as the freshwater pearl mussel Margaritifera margaritifera. In both instances, portions of the periostracum and calcareus ostracum are preserved and the shells have been worked to clear point-like forms analogous to those found in lithic inventories of the period (Prescott 1986: 29-32). Both arrows were discovered at Løpesfonna, only 8m from each other during separate surveys in 2010 and 2011. In the case of T25172, the arrow was discovered in 2010 below the snow patch with the shell point still attached to the shaft. The shaft is incomplete with a section from the proximal end missing. The remaining fragments were conjoined to a length of 67.9cm. The width of the shaft varies gradually giving it a straight appearance. The widest point of 7.2mm is found at the base of the haft (Table 6.2). The point has the form of an elongate triangle with a concave to straight base. The point was originally attached to the shaft by way of a layer of black adhesive that covers the shell point and continues down along one side of the shaft.

                              The second picture is from a paper entitled “Fauna of the Bosphorian Strait and its Significance for Ancient Hunters and Fishermen”. At the right is a leaf-shaped arrowhead carved from the shell of the bivalve mollusc Peronidia (Megangulus) venulosa, recovered from a midden at a prehistoric settlement in Russia. It’s from the Pospelovo-1 site, Yankovskaya Culture, with radiocarbon dates around 2,800 BP.

                              It’s great that you are showing things which confirm that shell was used as a medium for production of projectile points by some cultures in some time periods (especially where suitable lithics were in short supply) but doesn’t add much to the belief that the piece of shell originally posted by Sunny was an arrowhead. Particularly since it’s a less suitable type of shell from the oyster family and was found in an area where lithic material such as flint is abundantly available.

                              I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X