Thursday, 8 June 2017

Rutland Museums Eolith, Flint Tool?, Figure Stone? or Natural?

I recently came across this article on Rutland County Museums web page showing a picture of a suspected eolith, so I contacted Lorraine Cornwell the museums collection manager asking for more details. Lorraine kindly provided measurements, additional photographs and any other details she could find:

Part of the Oakham school collection.
Suspected bronze-age flint hammer stone.
Reassessed as a natural formation.
Dimensions, Length 140mm Width 90mm Depth 50mm (approx)

A subtle elephant motif can be seen facing left (possibly in half or seated configuration) and a partial thumb and nail motif to the right.

When I first saw the picture on the web page I instantly noticed some possible figuration, that of the seated elephant motif and the partial thumb and nail motif. Regular readers of my blog will already know that the combination of elephant and hominid motifs pretty much defines the figure stone phenomena, weather as whole or half elephant,  thumb or hominid face profile, an elephant front leg and hand combination can be seen here.

Thanks to the additional pictures provided I decided to examine this 'eolith' further, to see if it was either a flint tool, a figure stone or just a natural stone with some random flake removals.

I noticed four distinct patinas created by time and flake removal, this was a concern at first, however the patinas all seemed to fit into four separate chronologies, here is what can be observed:

The original cortex of the flint, created when the nodule was formed underground in chalk deposits. (Oldest, Very Ancient) Please note the ocher etching on this surface, inscribed at a later date.

The cortex on the flint eolith, a head profile shape can be seen on the right facing left, small chips to the cortex making the eye, nose, ear, mouth and chin features.

The 'thumb nail' area has a very thick patina on the surface. Created by one flake removal, and another surface below with matching patina from another flake removal. (Very old)

The thick patina can be seen to the left. A front facing head shape can be seen in the micro flaked surface bottom center, slightly left.

The majority of flake removal creating the objects defining shape is of another thinner patina. This surface also defines all of the suspected figuration and the patina matches the edge blade sharpening features. (Old)

 Sharpening flake removal can be seen all along the edge to the right, an ape like face profile can also be seen upper right facing right, and a 3/4 human like face profile top right facing right.

Many tiny flake removals in one localized area, having next to no discernible patina (through use as a bronze-age hammer stone?) (Relatively modern)

 Lower center we can see some more modern small localized flake removals.

The final area of note is that of tiny scaly flake removals, this to me looks very much like that on burned flint, often found in fields of known prehistoric activity and usually described as pot boilers. (Flints heated in a fire and then used by placing them in cooking vessel to heat or cook food, (ancient clay or wooden pots could not withstand direct placement on a fire))
Lower center area looks like it has been burned, very much like a pot boiler.
The post was written in order to practically demonstrate my use of flint analysis as described in the previous post Eoliths, Flint Tools and Figure Stones. So is it an artifact, a flint tool, a figure stone, or not? Tell me what you think.