Flint artefacts from Malham Tarn MYD3768 (c) YDNPA, 2023
The flint artefacts found at Mesolithic camp sites around Malham Tarn have an interesting story to tell. The flints illustrated here are part of a collection that was found several years ago on a site bordering the south west shore of the lake. The more recently excavated flints found by Bradford University have been carefully analysed. Quite a lot of the worked stone they found was flint, 80% at the Chapel Cave site. Since flint does not occur naturally in the Yorkshire Dales, it must have been imported. Most of it seems to have come from East Yorkshire, with smaller amounts coming from the Lincolnshire Wolds and the Peak District. The other stone used to make tools was chert. This does occur naturally in the Dales, both in the Great Scar limestone and in the limestone rocks of the Yoredale Series. Flint was clearly considered to be more useful than chert since all the flint cores found were worked until exhausted whereas the chert cores were apparently thrown away after only a few flakes had been removed.
The most common flint tools were trapezoidal shaped microliths. These tiny worked pieces of flint set into wooden shafts made formidable arrows, several side by side would form a lethal harpoon. Other tools found at Malham Tarn include scrapers, used for defleshing animal skins or scraping wild roots; burins, used for making antler and wood tools; and awls used for punching or boring holes. Different sites excavated around the Tarn have different mixes of tool types, only one site had awls for instance while Chapel Cave had almost exclusively microliths. Wood, bone and antler would all have been used as tools and weapons as well, but of course these rarely survive in the archaeological record. The artefacts are currently (2023) on display at Malham National Park & Visitor Centre.
Donahue, R H & Lovis, W (2000) Yorkshire Dales Hunter-Gatherer Research Project – Interim Report 1999. Bradford: University of Bradford
Donahue, R E et al (2002) Interim Report for the Hunter-Gatherer Mobility and Subsistence in the Yorkshire Dales Archaeological Research Report 2000/2001. Bradford: University of Bradford