Thursday, September 17, 2009

Axes and Hammers -- Pilling’s Prehistoric Legacy: Part One

Pilling’s a good place for ancient history. There’s a lot of it about, lurking under the sods, being trampled by sheep and courting couples, tucked into the corners of meandering dykes (please avoid the obvious comments, will you, and remember that this is still officially a family site).
Fortunately, you see, back in the day, a certain gentleman called Sobee produced a book all about the history of Pilling, and it somehow managed to catch the imagination of the local farmers.
We’ve tried to do the same with the rest of the Fylde and Wyre, but I suspect we’ve failed miserably.
As a result of Sobee’s scribbling, however, farmers around Pilling nowadays tend to pay a lot more attention to the stuff their ploughing up than other local landowners.
And what stuff would that be? Well take a look at this lot.

Somewhere between Cogie Hill and Black Lane Head the ancient stone axe illustrated above (measuring nine and a half inches in length for those who need to know such measurements) was discovered alongside the adze illustrated below.

Incidentally, in case you’re wondering why once again we’ve opted for illustrations rather than photographs, there are a couple of good reasons.
Firstly, our camera is naff and only produces blurred shots of anything less than three feet in height.
Secondly, we’re recycling this lot from our ‘History of the Wyre’ book. (We’re very environmentally conscious.)
Anyhow, getting back to that axe at the top of the article, it was made from partly polished igneous rock originating, like the adze, in the Cumbria (although, of course, there were no county boundaries back when the tools were first fashioned).
What do you mean, what’s an adze? That’s an adze in the illustration, what does it look like?
Okay, adzes were used to hollow out boats and turn soil and stuff. The Cogie Hill adze was made from volcanic tuff, a form of pumice, originating, as we’ve already sort of hinted, at Langdale Pike in Cumbria. Langdale was apparently an important centre for quarrying stone at the time (that being the Neolithic period, of course).
Just to fill the reader in on the details a bit more, a pole would have been stuffed through the hole in the middle of the adze and fastened in place with some sort of rope. Its operator would then stand astride a felled trunk with the stone head pointing towards the ground. Then he’d swing his tool back and forth (watch it…there will be people banned from this board if I find anything offensive in those comments boxes) using the handle for leverage.
Here’s another axe (illustrated below) that was discovered at Bone Hill in 1940.

In case you’re thinking, “How do they know that’s an axe? It looks like any other lump of rock to me,” the truth is, you have to see these things to appreciate them.
Illustrations, even photographs, don’t do the napping and the fine chiselled edges any justice. If you want my advice, you should get in touch with a museum that houses such artefacts and get a private viewing. These ancient implements need to groped and fondled to be fully understood. (I’m warning you lot. We’ve had enough lewd comments around here of late and I know the sort of filthy minds you’ve got.)
Okay, it’s a small, possibly Neolithic, possibly Bronze Age, hand-held axe although, to the best of my knowledge, it’s never been properly dated. The last time we looked it was being kept in a drawer in some deep, dark dungeon beneath the Harris Museum. So now you know who to pester if fancy a grope.
Two more axes were unearthed at Bradshaw Lane Farm. Here’s one of them, six inches in length (seriously…there will be excommunications if you’re not careful) and made from dark, hard mudstone. (Go and look it up if you don’t know what it is.)

And here’s the second, again Neolithic, only this time made of flint.

The nearest flint, it’s worth mentioning, would have been in North Wales suggesting, once again, that trading routes were established by this period. You want more? Of course you do, you’re gagging for it. However you’re going to have to wait until part two because I want my dinner.


Andrew said...

Huh. Gagged.

The first one pictured is an Australian Aboriginal axe head. I have seen one just like that one. They had boats you know.

Now I am wondering about a connection between Pilling and the pilling that happens to fabric.

Big Sis said...

Hi Mich and Brian! I was following an article on British glaciation (over at Watts Up With That) and researching local drumlins when Wyre Archaeology popped up on my Goodledar.

Thought I'd drop in to say hello. I'll be seeing you later today anyhow.


Big Sis said...

Ah crap! Googledar! Bloody typos...

JahTeh said...

Word verification is skingly which sounds just like a part of the Fylde and it's made me forget what I was going to insult you about.

Any drumlins around the Fylde?

Anyway just thought I'd pop in so you won't be forgetting me.

Brian Hughes said...


I've no idea what pilling the fabric is. If it's made of wool, bleats a lot and trembles at the sight of farmers in their wellies by moonlight, then I reckon I might know the connection.

Big Sis,

Wyre Archaeology get everywhere. We're more famous than Martha Stacksbury now.


Of course we get drumlins round the Fylde and Wyre. If you're very patient and you own a strong net, you can sneak up on their mounds in the autumn and bag a couple for supper.

Jayne said...

Aboriginal People in Victoria used to trade in greenstone they quarried from Mt William to make axe heads and adzes and whatnot.
Have possible trade routes been traced from the place of origin of the adzes and axes (and other goods) or was it more a random trade of goods at the time?

WV =trips
I'm assuming you and Michelle didn't manage to snaffle the recent 10 pound tickets to Oz, then?

Brian Hughes said...


I'm not sure if anybody's ever worked those trade routes out. I suspect they just used the M6 like everybody else though.

As for £10 tickets to Oz, I'm assuming that's one way only...

Jayne said...

I thought they avoided the M6 due to the tolls the Romans whacked on it to pay for their lead-lined drinking fountains...and orgies, but mainly the fountains

Yep, one way with working Visas, probably needing some slave labour this end.

Brian Hughes said...

"...probably needing some slave labour this end."

We'll send you a few of our Wyre Archaeology students, if you like, so long as your end stumps up the tenner fares.

Jayne said...

Most important employment question....
Can they pull a beer?

WV =unwailin
What the customer does when the Guinness comes out flat.

Brian Hughes said...


They're students, which means they usually just chisel a hole in the barrel and drink straight from it.

Jayne said...

That would explain the green tinge to their skins....

Your ears must have been burning this morning (our time), Brian, as Feral Beast was at the gem club show and rhapsodising about you and archaeology to a club member who was selling neolithic axe heads *sob* and fossils at the show.

Brian Hughes said...

Selling Neolithic axe heads? I hope he had all the related stratigraphic documentation etc, without which a Neolithic axe head might as well just be a stone with a sharp edge. (Bet he didn't...)

Jayne said...

Yes, there were documentation on each, apparently, (I was at home supervising Dad) although the prices were quite steep according to The Spouse.

Ozfemme said...

I'm scared to say anything....but which way is the tool swung?

Brian Hughes said...


Over here prehistoric tools are practically worthless...except for their historic value, of course.


Er...backwards and forwards?

Paul said...

Wow! What a cool blog. I have subscribed but I won't say much for fear embarrassing myself.

Jayne said...

All of our prehistoric artifacts are either in private collections or in museums, we'd hardly ever see one turn up for sale.
Except for politicians; those historic artifacts keep turning up every day, selling themselves off to the highest bidder....

BwcaBrownie said...

Brian Brian!
Those 10 poun tickits is because we got dust storms, bushfires, floods, pizenous snakes, pizenous spiders, pizenous jellyfish in the beach with all the sharks, and water restrictions so tight that hotels have removed bathplugs (and I'd bet good money I have left out some of our other attractions).

Brian Hughes said...

Paul, Jayne and Annie...

I really ought to check through the comments on older postings more frequently. I'm a muddle-headed old Hector and no mistake.