2,000 Flints and more

A Prehistoric Catalogue

Digital FlintThe prehistory resilience project has focussed on flints within the York Archaeological Trust’s (YAT) collection. The main objective of this project was to create a catalogue from the extensive prehistoric flint collection, with the aim to make this material more accessible through the creation of a reference collection to go alongside the catalogue. This reference collection is primarily aimed at providing learning opportunities in regards to worked flints and the prehistoric period to a range of people, such as those who are in full time education, or work within field archaeology. It also has the potential to become a part of the resources that the YAT education department offer to schools. This latter option is beneficial due to the alterations to the National Curriculum to include ‘prehistory’.

The reference collection has been divided into two types; the first collection consists of worked flint and includes arrowheads, scrapers, flakes and cores (to name a few).

The second reference collection has been created from the natural flints and is focussed on the different types of flint. The majority of the flints within the YAT collection are Till flints (generally translucent flints that range in colour from honey-to-black (high quality) to grey, speckled flints (a lower quality); Till flint is the most commonly associated with flint tools) and Yorkshire Wolds flints (these have a bluish-white colour and generally have white patina, they are also opaque to light). However, another material that falls under ‘flint tools’ is chert, a greyish rock with an obvious grain. It is much coarser than flint, but very similar in the way it breaks and although it can be worked, it can be difficult to determine whether it has been worked with the purpose to create a functional tool. This second reference collection also includes burnt and corticated flints.

Creating reference collections allows people to handle flint and to gain an understanding of what to look out for. The two reference collections can also be compared against each other. This comparative approach will allow people to identify the differences between a piece of natural flint and flint that has been worked (whether it is a tool, core or debitage).

The selection of worked flints that have been photographed (chosen due to the quantity and quality of the flints) will form part of the online collection of YAT artefacts (which will also include artefacts such as pottery). In the long-term it may be possible to eventually photograph all of the worked flint within the YAT collection.

There remains scope to expand this project and incorporate the rest of the prehistoric finds within the YAT collection. The creation of a database for the other raw materials that are dateable to prehistoric periods would potentially allow for our understanding of prehistoric York to develop, and allow insight into the extent that this landscape was used before the Romans arrived in AD 71.

To view the more information on the work that has gone into this project, please visit the page on Katie Rawlinson, in our Investing in People pages.


Gallery of Flint Images


Don Henson from the University of York discusses his involvement with the project

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