The Ancient Stone Implements, Weapons, and Ornaments of Great Britain/Chapter 11
GRINDING-STONES AND WHETSTONES.
Before proceeding to the consideration of other forms of implements, it will be well to say a few words with regard to those which have served for grinding, polishing, or sharpening tools and weapons, and more especially such as there is every reason to suppose, were employed to give an edge or finish to other materials than metal, though the whetstones of the Bronze Period must not be passed by unnoticed.
I have already mentioned the fact that the grindstones on which stone celts and axes were polished and sharpened, were not like those of the present day, revolving discs against the periphery of which the object to be ground was held; but stationary slabs on which the implements to be polished or sharpened were rubbed. Considering the numbers of polished implements that have been discovered in this country, it appears not a little remarkable that such slabs have not been more frequently noticed, though not improbably they have, from their simple character, for the most part escaped observation; and even if found, there is usually little, unless the circumstances of the discovery are peculiar, to connect them with any particular stage of civilization or period of antiquity. In Denmark and Sweden, however, these grinding-stones, both of the flat and polygonal forms already described, are of comparatively frequent occurrence. Specimens are figured by Worsaae, Sophus Müller, and others, and were also given by Thomsen, so long ago as 1832. He states that they have been found in Scandinavia, in barrows and elsewhere in the ground, with half-finished stone celts lying with them, so that there can be no doubt as to the purpose for which they were intended. They are also described by Nilsson and Montelius. Both slabs and prismatic pieces of sandstone have been found in the Swiss Lake-dwellings, several of the former with concavities on one or both faces, resulting from stone hatchets having been ground upon them.
In France the discovery of numerous 'polissoirs' has been noticed, some of them of very large dimensions. They are abundant in the Departments of la Charente and la Dordogne, and some fine examples are in the Museum of Troyes (Aube). One, nearly 3 feet long, with hollows of different characters, apparently for grinding different parts of tools and weapons, is figured by M. Peigné Delacourt; an oval concavity upon it is 2 feet 3 inches long by 1 foot wide, and seems well adapted for grinding the faces of large celts. Another fine example was in the possession of Dr. Léveillé, at Grand Pressigny, and a large specimen, also from Poitou, is in the Musée de St. Germain. Several have been found in Luxembourg and Belgium.
Flat grinding-stones of smaller dimensions have been found in the turbaries of the Somme and in the Camp de Catenoy. A narrow sharpening stone 5 inches long is recorded to have been found with stone hatchets and other implements in the Cueva de los Murciélagos, in Spain. Polissoirs have also been observed in India.
The Carreg y Saelhau, or Stone of the Arrows, near Aber, Carnarvonshire, has numerous scorings upon it, a quarter or half an inch in depth; and, though doubtless used for sharpening tools and weapons of some kind, it seems to belong to the metallic age. Canon Greenwell informs me that he observed a rock close to a camp on Lazenby Fell, Cumberland, with about seventy grooves upon it from 4 to 7 inches long and about 1 inch wide and deep, pointed at either end, as if from sharp-ended tools or weapons having been ground in them. The grooves are in various directions, though sometimes in groups of four or five together, which are parallel with each other. In the course of his investigations in the barrows on the Yorkshire Wolds he has found a few of the flat slabs for grinding or polishing, though of small size. One of them, formed of a flat piece of red sandstone about 41 inches by 31 inches, with both faces bearing marks of having been in use for grinding, lay close to a deposit of burnt bones. Another somewhat similar fragment of sandstone (23 inches by 21 inches), which also bore traces of attrition, was found in a barrow at Helperthorpe.
In another barrow at Cowlam, Yorkshire, E. R., was a rough piece of grit, 21 inches long, with one end slightly hollowed, apparently by grinding celts, and a large flat compact laminated red sandstone pebble about 83 inches by 3 inches, with both faces ground away, the one being evenly flat and the other uneven. In the same barrow occurred one of the flint rubbers to be subsequently described, and also a quartzite pebble (21 inches long) that had been used as a hammer-stone. A portion of a whetstone of Pennant or Coal-measure sandstone was found in the long barrow at West Kennet, Wiltshire, in which also occurred a thin ovoidal knife of flint, ground at the edges.
I have in my own collection a very interesting specimen of this kind from Burwell Fen, near Cambridge. It is a thin slab of close-grained micaceous sandstone, about 51 by 4 inches, slightly hollowed and polished on both faces by grinding. With it were found two celts of flint, 41 and 5 inches long, of pointed oval section, one of them polished all over, and the other at the edge only, which in all probability had been sharpened on this very stone. In the same place were two long subangular fragments of greenstone of the right form, size, and character to be manufactured into celts, and which had no doubt been selected for that purpose.
A grinding-stone with a celt lying in it, found at Glenluce, Wigtownshire, has been figured.
On the Sussex Downs I have found flat pebbles 3 or 4 inches long, which have evidently been used as hones, but whether for stone or metallic tools it is impossible to say. Fragments of polished celts and numerous flakes and "scrapers" of flint were, however, in their immediate neighbourhood. Among the modern savages of Tahiti who used hatchets of basalt, a whetstone and water appear to have been always at hand, as constant sharpening was necessary. It seems probable therefore that there must have been a constant demand for such sharpening-stones in this country, and that many of them ought still to exist. With flint hatchets, the constant whetting was, however, no doubt less necessary than with those of the different kinds of basalt. Their edges, if carefully chipped, will indeed cut wood without being ground at all.
Mr. Bateman mentions "a flat piece of sandstone rubbed hollow at one side" as having been found in a barrow at Castern, Staffordshire, but it is uncertain whether this was a grindstone. It may have been used only as a mortar, for with it was a round piece of ruddle or red ochre, "which from its abraded appearance must have been in much request for colouring the skin of its owner." In a barrow on the West Coast of Kintyre, there also occurred a piece of red Lancashire or Westmoreland iron-ore or hæmatite worn flat on the side, apparently by having been rubbed upon some other substance. Nodules of ruddle are also said to have occurred, interspersed with the charcoal in a barrow at Broad Down, near Honiton.
In one of the ancient habitations in Holyhead, was a large stone 11 inches long, probably used for grinding hæmatite, with which it was deeply tinged; and a small stone box found with celts and other relics at Skara, Skaill, Orkney, contained a red pigment.
There can be little doubt of this red pigment having been in use for what was considered a personal decoration by the early occupants of Britain. But this use of red paint dates back to a far earlier period, for pieces of hæmatite with the surface scraped, apparently by means of flint-flakes, have been found in the French and Belgian caves of the Reindeer Period, so that this red pigment appears to have been in all ages a favourite with savage man. The practice of interring war-paint with the dead is still observed among the North American Indians.
"The paints that warriors love to use
Place here within his hand,
That he may shine with ruddy hues
Amidst the spirit land."
Fig. 180a.—Lamberton Moor.
Some few of the grinding-stones found in this country resemble those of polygonal form found in Denmark, in so far as they are symmetrically shaped and have been used on all their faces. One 131 inches long, found on Lamberton Moor, Berwickshire, is shown in Fig. 180a., kindly lent by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.
In the Christy Collection is such a sharpening-stone, nearly square in section, about 91 inches long, and of the form shown in Fig. 181. Both the faces and sides are worn slightly concave, as if from grinding convex surfaces such as the edges of celts, though it is impossible to say with any degree of certainty that this was really the purpose to which it was applied. It is said to have been found near Barcoot, in the parish of Dorchester, Oxon, in 1835, not far from a spot where a stone celt had been found a few years previously. In the same collection is a Danish whetstone of precisely the same character, but rather broader at one end than at the other.
Fig. 181.—Dorchester. 1
A grinding-stone, 26 inches long, was found at Ehenside Tarn, Cumberland.
In Fig. 182 is shown, full size, a very curious object formed of compact mica-schist, which has the appearance of having served as a whetstone or hone. It has been ground over its whole surface. The flatter face is towards the middle somewhat hollowed—rather more so than is shown in the section—and shows some oblique scratches upon it as if from rubbing a rather rough object upon it. It was found in 1870 by Canon Greenwell, with other relics accompanying an unburnt body in a barrow at Rudstone, near Bridlington. About midway between the head and the knees was a series of articles in this descending order. On the top was this whetstone—if such it be—resting on a carved jet ring, like Fig. 372, which lay on the boss of a large jet button. Below this was another jet button, like Fig. 371, face downwards. Close by lay a half-nodule of pyrites and a round-ended flint flake, which will be subsequently noticed. Nearer the face was a dagger-knife of bronze, with three rivets through it, and two more for fastening together the two plates of ox-horn of which the hilt had been composed. The whetstone may have been that used for sharpening this instrument.
An instrument of slate of nearly the same form was found in a cairn at Penbeacon, Dartmoor, and was regarded by Mr. Spence Bate as a tool used in fashioning clay vessels. Dr. Thurnam has suggested that if covered with leather these stones may have served as bracers or arm-guards for archers.
Two pieces of a dark-coloured slaty kind of stone, of nearly the same form and size as the Yorkshire specimen, and lying parallel with each other, were found by Sir R. Colt Hoare at the feet of a skeleton, together with a little rude drinking-cup, in a barrow near Winterbourn Stoke. A stud and ring of jet, probably of the same character as those from Rudstone, and a piece of flint rudely chipped, as if intended for a dagger or spear, were also found. No bronze objects were discovered, but the cist appears to have been imperfectly examined.
Fig. 183.—Fimber. 1 I have already mentioned that in grinding and polishing the concave faces of different forms of perforated stone axes, it is probable that stone rubbers were used in conjunction with sand. Even the smaller flat and rounded faces may have been wrought by similar means. That rubbers of some kind must have been used, is, I think, evident from the character of the surfaces, especially of those which are hollowed; and the most readily available material for the formation of such rubbers, was doubtless stone. There is therefore an à priori probability of such stone grinding-tools having been in use; and if we find specimens which present the conditions which such tools would exhibit, we are almost justified in assuming them to have served such purposes. Now in the collection of Messrs. Mortimer, of Driffield, Yorkshire, are several pieces of flint and portions of pebbles of schist, flint, and quartz found in that neighbourhood, which are ground at one end into a more or less rounded form, and exhibit striæ running along, and not across, the rounded surface. They have, in fact, all the appearance of having been used with coarse sand for grinding a concavity in another stone, such, for instance, as the concave face of the stone axe shown in Fig. 125. I am indebted to their kindness for the specimen shown in Fig. 183, which consists of a short piece of a conical nodule of flint, the large end of which has been used for grinding in ancient times, the striated face being now considerably weathered. In the Greenwell Collection is a rubber of the same kind from Weaverthorpe on the Yorkshire Wolds. Mr. H. S. Harland has found other specimens in Yorkshire, of which he has kindly given me several. Polishers are also found in Scotland. A polisher of somewhat similar character, but made of serpentine, was found in the Lago di Varese, near Como, where a number of stone implements were also discovered.
At a later period larger rubbers of the same kind were used to smooth the flutings of Doric columns. I have seen some among the ruins of the temples at Selinunto, in Sicily.
Some long narrow rubbers, apparently intended for grinding out the shaft-holes of perforated axes, have been found in the Swiss Lake-dwellings; and I have a slightly conical stone, about an inch in diameter, from Mainz, which may have been used for the same purpose.
In the barrow at Cowlam, already mentioned, besides the grinding-stones of grit, there was a piece of flint roughly chipped into a cubical form, and having one face partly ground smooth. It may have been used for polishing the surfaces of other stone implements, or possibly merely as a muller. It is shown in Fig. 184. The striæ run diagonally of the square face.
In the collection formed by Canon Greenwell, is also a sandstone pebble, 21 inches in diameter, which has been "picked" into shape, and has one face smooth as if used for grinding. It was found in a barrow on Ganton Wold, East Riding. A roughly conical piece of oolitic sandstone, 21 inches high, in places "picked" on the surface, and with the base apparently used for grinding, was found with a contracted body and some flint flakes, in another barrow on Ganton Wold.
|Fig. 184.—Cowlam. 1||Fig. 185.—Amesbury. 1|
In the Wiltshire barrows several rubbing-stones (or what appear to be such) of a peculiar form have been found, of which one is shown in Fig. 185. It is of close-grained grit, possibly from the Lower Greensand, and was discovered with two others in a barrow on Normanton Down, near Amesbury. Two more were in the collection of the late Rev. Edward Duke, of Lake, near Salisbury, to whose kindness I am indebted for the loan of the specimen. Both are now in the British Museum. These instruments vary but little in shape, size, or character, being usually of a truncated half-ovoid form, with a rounded groove along the flat surface, and are formed of sandstone.
One was found in a barrow at Upton Lovel, with flint celts, a perforated stone axe-head, various implements of bone, a bronze pin or awl, and other objects. Another occurred in a barrow at Everley, with a bronze chisel, an unused whetstone of freestone, and a hone of bluish colour; and another with a skeleton, a stone hammer, a bronze celt, a bone tube, and various other articles in a barrow at Wilsford. Two or three of these sharpening stones, found in a barrow at Roundway, near Devizes, are in the Museum of the Wilts Archaeological Society. One of these has been figured. A pebble with shallow grooves on each face found at Mount Caburn, Lewes, may possibly belong to this class of implements, though it may have been a hammer. A rubbing-stone of this kind was found at Topcliffe, Yorkshire, but not in a barrow.
Sir R. C. Hoare considered whetstones of this kind to have been used for sharpening and bringing to a point, pins and other implements of bone, and they seem well adapted for such a purpose, and are still so used by the Eskimos. They may also have served for smoothing the shafts of arrows. Serpentine pebbles with a groove in them are used for straightening arrow-shafts by the Indians of California, and shaft rubbers of sandstone have been found in Pennsylvania.
The Rev. W. C. Lukis found a similar stone (41 inches) in a barrow in Brittany. It is now in the British Museum. Another from a dolmen in Lozère has been thought to be for sharpening the points of bone instruments. Stones of the same form have been found in Germany; two from the cemetery near Monsheim are preserved in the Museum at Mainz. They are rather more elongated than the English examples. A specimen very like Fig. 185 has been found in Denmark. They seem also to occur in Hungary. I have a grooved stone of this kind from the Lago di Varese, Como, where the manufacture of flint arrow-heads was carried on extensively. An object found with polished stone instruments in the cave Casa da Moura, Portugal, not improbably belongs to this class of grooved sharpening stones.
From their association with bronze objects, they appear to belong to the Bronze rather than to the Stone Period; and the same holds good with the more ordinary form of whetstone, of which an example is given in Fig. 186. The original was found in the tumulus at Hove, near Brighton, which contained the stone axe-head already mentioned, a beautiful amber cup, and a bronze dagger. Another, of compact red sandstone, 33 inches long, with the perforated end rounded, was found in a barrow on Bow Hill, Sussex, and is now in the British Museum. Another, 3 inches long, bluish grey in colour, was found with a bronze dagger and a stone axe-hammer in an urn at Broughton in Craven, in 1675.
Two perforated whetstones were found with a bronze dagger and pin in the Silk Hill Barrow, Wilts. Another, with the perforation in a sort of loop at the end, was found with two daggers and a crutched pin of bronze, associated with burnt bones in a barrow at Normanton. Whetstones, in some cases not perforated, have occurred in other Wiltshire barrows, associated with bronze daggers at Wilsford and Lake, and with flint daggers or spear-heads at Durrington. The smooth stone found with a flint dagger in a barrow near Stonehenge, may also possibly have been a whetstone. Two from barrows at Knowle, Dorset, and Camerton, Somerset, have been figured by Dr. Thurnam. Another of the same kind was found in a barrow at Tregaseal, St. Just, Cornwall, and two others with urns at Brane Common, in the same neighbourhood. Others not perforated are recorded from Cottenham, Cambs. One from Anglesea has been figured.
Two of greenish stone (chlorite?) one 25 inches long, perforated at the end, were found at Drewton, near North Cave, Yorkshire; and another of similar material, 2 inches long, was found near some "Picts' houses," Shapinsay, Orkney. Half of a whetstone was found with a bronze dagger and numerous flint flakes by Mr. Morgan in a barrow at Penhow, Monmouthshire; and a much-used whetstone was found in a barrow near Scarborough, but the form of neither is specified. Several, both pierced and otherwise, have been recorded from Scotland. One with the boring incomplete was found with a flint knife in a cist at Stenton, East Lothian, and another, perforated, with a thin bronze blade and an urn at Glenluce, Wigtownshire. It appears possible that some of the stones found in Scotland and perforated at one end, described by Wilson as flail-stones, may after all be merely whetstones. The perforated form is common in Ireland, and is usually found in connection with metal objects. I have a narrow hone of rag-stone, perforated at one end, which was found with a remarkable hoard of bronze objects, including moulds for socketed celts and for a gouge, in the Isle of Harty, Sheppey. An almost identical whetstone is in the Zurich Museum.
Whetstones, perforated at one end, have occurred in the Swiss Lake-dwellings. Most of those found in the ancient cemetery of Hallstatt, in the Salzkammergut, were perforated in the same manner, and in some cases provided with an iron loop for suspension. They are usually of sandstone, and not formed from slaty rocks.
A whetstone, 51 inches long, the two flat faces of which had evidently been used for sharpening flat blades, while in the centre of each is a deep groove, probably caused by sharpening pointed tools, such as awls or needles of bronze, was found at Ty Mawr, Anglesea, near a spot where a number of bronze celts, spear-heads, &c., had previously been dug up. It has been figured by the late Hon. W. O. Stanley, whose cut is here reproduced as Fig. 187. The ends of the stone are somewhat battered from its having been also used as a hammer.
Fig. 187.—Ty Mawr.
The same explorer discovered in hut-circles in Holyhead Island other whetstones of the same character, in one instance with two principal grooves and minor scorings crossing each other at an acute angle, and in another with three parallel grooves in the face of the stone. There can be little doubt that these sharpening stones belong to a period when the use of metal for cutting and piercing instruments was fully established.
There are frequently found in Ireland and Scotland flat pebbles of quartz and quartzite, sometimes ground on the edges or faces, or on both, and having on each face an indentation running in a somewhat oblique direction to the longer axis of the pebble. Specimens have been figured by Sir William Wilde, who describes them as sling-stones. The flat faces of some have all the appearance of having been abraded by a pointed instrument. I have never met with this form in England, but in the National Museum at Edinburgh is a grooved pebble exactly like those found in Ireland, from the broch, at Kintradwell, Sutherlandshire, and another from that at Lingrow, Orkney. One from Borness, Kirkcudbrightshire, has been figured. Others have been found at Dunino, Fife, and Dunnichen, Forfarshire. This latter has an oval hollow on one face and a groove on the other.
This pebble variety is rarely found in Scandinavia, but another and probably rather later form, in which the pebbles have been wrought into a long shuttle-like shape, is abundant. Some of these are provided with a groove along the sides, which would admit of a cord being fastened round them, by which to suspend them from the girdle. On one or both faces there is often a similar indentation to those on the Irish specimens, on which, however, it is, as a rule, deeper than on the Scandinavian. On the latter, the grooves have sometimes more the appearance of having been produced by repeated slight blows than by friction. Specimens are engraved by Worsaae and Nilsson. The latter regards them as belonging to the Stone Age, They occurred, however, with numerous objects of the early Iron Age at Thorsbjerg, and have even been found with remains of both bronze and iron bands around them, instead of any more perishable cord.
These grooved stones are not to be confounded with the ordinary form of hammer-stone, but belong to a distinct category. They were, in all probability, used as a means for obtaining fire, by striking them with a pointed piece of iron. They constitute, in fact, the "flint" part of a modification of the ordinary "flint and steel."
Whetstones are, of course, commonly found with Roman domestic antiquities; with Saxon, which are usually of a more purely sepulchral character, they are rarely discovered. Canon Greenwell found, however, two whetstones, one as much as 24 inches long, in graves of this period, at Uncleby, Yorkshire.
In one of the German cemeteries on the Rhine, corresponding to ours of Anglo-Saxon date, a small rubbing or sharpening stone, almost celt-like in form, was found.
In Dutch Guiana a small form of grinding-stone of quartz, apparently of the same age as the stone hatchets of that country, is known as a thunderstone, and great medicinal powers are ascribed to it by the natives. I must, however, return to the sharper forms of stone implements.
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- Tidskrift for Oldkyndighed, vol. i. pl. ii. p. 423.
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- P. 43.
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- Sophus Müller, "Stenalderen," fig. 196.
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- Hoare's "South Wilts," p. 194.
- Ibid., p. 199.
- Ibid., 209.
- Ibid., p. 211.
- Ibid., p. 172.
- Ibid., p. 164. "Cat. Devizes Mus.," No. 85.
- Arch., vol. xliii. p. 424.
- Arch., vol. xlix. p. 194.
- "Nænia Cornubiæ," 1872, p. 212.
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- Arch. Journ., vol. xxi. p. 101.
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- Arch. Journ., vol. xviii. p. 71. Lee's "Isca Silurum," pl. xlii. p. 108.
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- Arch. Journ., vol. xxvii. pl. iii. 1.
- Arch. Journ., vol. xxvi. p. 321, figs. 18, 19.
- "Cat. Mus. R. I. A.," p. 75.
- P. S. A. S., vol. ix. p. 358.
- P. S. A. S., vol. x. pl. xviii. 115.
- P. S. A. S., vol. xxiii. p. 234.
- P. S. A. S., vol. xiv. p. 276.
- "Nord. Olds.," fig. 343.
- Pl. i.
- Engelhardt, "Thorsbjerg Mosefund," p. 51, pl. xii. 12.
- See Brit. Assoc. Rep., 1881, p. 692.
- Jahrb. d. Ver. v. Alt. fr. im Rheinl., Heft xliv. p. 139, Taf. vi. 21.
- Notes and Queries, 2nd S., vol. viii. p. 92.