Monument record IKL 043 - Devereux's Pit, Icklingham Brick Pit, Icklingham, (Palaeolithic)

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Summary

Devereux's Pit, otherwise known as Icklingham Brick Pit.

Location

Grid reference Centred TL 793 720 (132m by 87m) (Centred on)
Map sheet TL77SE
Civil Parish ICKLINGHAM, FOREST HEATH, SUFFOLK

Map

Type and Period (3)

Full Description

Devereux's Pit, otherwise known as Icklingham Brick Pit. Now much overgrown. "Skertchly describes a `dirty loess-like loam' worked to a depth of 4.5m, containing some feshwater shells and also seeds of plants. He picked up a flake in disturbed soil, which seems to have come from the loam. McKenny Hughes was probably referring to this pit when he describes a deep pit in the brick earth with shells, `bones and antlers'. The only artefact definitely known from this pit is a crude stone struck hand-axe made on an older, patinated primary flake". Straight edged ovate hand- axe, 13 cm long, in the British Museum "is marked `Icklingham brick-earth' and may be from this site. It has a worn, white patina characteristic of exposure rather than abrasion" (S1).

2017: In 2017, an investigation was sought to demonstrate the presence and character of Lower Palaeolithic archaeology in the fine-grained Pleistocene sediments preserved at Devereux’s Pit. Work focused on two of the previously excavated sections. Section 2 was reopened and expanded, revealing a brickearth sequence overlying a non-calcareous grey silt. Excavation of a 2m x 1m test pit through the grey silt produced a small number of flakes and chips. A small number of flakes were also recovered from the overlying brickearths. The base of Section 1 was also reopened and expanded, revealing a similar grey silt to Section 2. Three 1m x 1m test pits through the grey silt produced an assemblage of 116 artefacts comprising cores, flakes, including ‘handaxe thinning flakes’, and chips, indicative of Lower Palaeolithic Acheulean technology. A small number of flakes and several pieces of natural flint displayed signs of burning. Samples were taken for clast lithological analysis, sediment analyses and ESR dating on quartz.

2018: Borehole Survey, (S4)
In Test Pit 1, where an assemblage with clear Lower Palaeolithic affinities was recovered from in situ sediments. That the sediments are fine-grained is really important, as it suggests the archaeology has nnot undergone significant reworking; the artefacts are at least approximately in the position in which they were discarded by hominins during the Lower Palaeolithic and therefore have the potential of telling us much about early human behaviour.

At present, the age of the site remains uncertain. The position of Devereux’s Pit in an area mapped by the BGS as Lowestoft Till suggests the sediments infill a basin formed in the surface of the till. It is possible that the chalky diamicton at the base of two of the boreholes is till, which would provide support for this interpretation. Lowestoft Till is widely accepted as being deposited during the Anglian Glaciation approximately 450 ka (thousand years ago). The archaeology at Devereux’s Pit would therefore be younger than 450 ka. This suggests that human occupation was during either Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 11 (c. 400ka) or MIS 9 (c. 320 ka). Samples were taken from sections 1 and 2 for ESR dating on quartz. These are currently being processed by colleagues at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris and will hopefully help resolve the age of the site. Other methods that may help to refine the age of the site in the future will be amino acid racemization on mollusc shells, thermoluminescence dating of burnt flint, pollen analysis and biostratigraphy, should suitable materials be preserved.

The artefacts are in a fresh condition, suggesting minimal reworking and therefore the likelihood that the artefacts are in primary context. This raises the prospect of identifying activity areas, particularly locations that knapping took place. Third, the artefacts indicate the presence of two different modes of reduction in the same archaeological horizon. On the one hand, the large core demonstrates that humans were knapping large flint nodules to produce large flakes. The core is a migrating platform core produced by alternate flaking, where the removal of a flake produces a new striking platform from which subsequent flakes can be removed. On the other hand, there are flakes characteristic of handaxe manufacture. These have linear platforms with lips and facets from bifacial knapping that are characteristic of use of soft hammers, probably antler or bone, that were used to thin handaxes. These two reduction sequences are characteristic of Lower Palaeolithic technology in Britain. Finally, the artefacts show a low level of cortex retention. While the assemblage is too small to draw firm conclusions, it does suggest that final stages of knapping were undertaken at the site.

The discovery of burnt materials, including burnt artefacts, in association with the main archaeological assemblage is of considerable importance. Devereux’s Pit has the potential of adding more information to this important debate. An aim of future work will be to determine if the burning event represented at Devereux’s Pit relates to human fire-use or natural fire.

Close to other pits with Palaeolithic finds - (SeeIKL 012 & 025).

2021: Excavation resumed

Sources/Archives (4)

  • <S1> Bibliographic reference: Wymer, J.J.. 1985. Palaeolithic Sites of East Anglia. 130.
  • <S2> Article in serial: Minter, F. and Saunders, A.. 2018. Archaeology in Suffolk 2017, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History.
  • <S3> Digital archive: Wymer, J.J.. 1999. The Lower Palaeolithic Occupation of Britain (TERPs) The Lower Palaeolithic Occupation of Britain (TERPS). 22623.
  • <S4> Unpublished document: Davis, R.. 2020. Preliminary Report on Archaeological and Geological at Devereaux's Pit, Weatherhill Farm, Icklingham, Suffolk, 2016 to 2018.

Finds (7)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (5)

Record last edited

Jun 22 2021 1:50PM

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